What are Heart Tumors?

Heart tumors are growths that develop in the heart. They can form in many different parts of the heart, such as the:

  • Endocardium (the tissue that lines the chambers of the heart)
  • Myocardium (the muscle tissue of the heart)
  • Pericardium (the sac surrounding the heart)
  • Heart valves (which control the flow of blood through the heart)

Most of the time, heart tumors develop due to cancer that has spread from other parts of the body. These are referred to as metastatic heart tumors. Certain types of cancer, such as lung, breast, kidney, or esophageal cancer, are more likely to lead to the growth of these tumors than others. Metastatic heart tumors occur most commonly in people who have melanoma, affecting up to approximately 65% of people with this type of cancer.

Only a small number of heart tumors are primary tumors, meaning that they first developed in the heart. The vast majority of primary heart tumors are not cancerous, but even these can pose serious health risks, such as blood flow problems, blood clots, or stroke.  Some examples of primary heart tumors include:

  • Myxoma (the most common benign primary heart tumor; it usually affects the left atrium)
  • Papillary fibroelastoma (benign tumor that usually develops in heart valves)
  • Lipoma (benign tumor that typically grows in the left ventricle, right atrium, or atrial septum)
  • Angiosarcoma (the most common cancerous primary heart tumor; this usually grows in the right atrium or pericardium)
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma (the most common cancerous primary heart tumor in children)

Heart tumors are typically diagnosed through imaging tests, such as an echocardiogram, cardiac MRI or CT scan, and/or a PET scan. Your doctor will most likely order these tests if you have cancer in another part of your body and have started to develop heart problems. Primary heart tumors are more difficult to diagnose than metastatic tumors, as their symptoms are similar to other conditions; they are typically discovered as incidental findings through diagnostic tests ordered for other medical problems.

If you have developed symptoms of a heart condition, you can receive high-quality care at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s award-winning Queens cardiology center. To schedule an appointment, please call (718) 206-7100.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.