Cardiac Tumor

Also known as: heart tumors, rhabdomyomas, myxomas, fibromas, teratomas, rhabdomyosarcomas, fibrosarcomas.

What is a cardiac tumor?

If an abnormal tissue grows in the heart (or in rare cases spreads to the heart-called secondary or metastatic tumors), it is known as a primary cardiac tumor. Cardiac tumors are rare in children; they can be both benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), and both may interfere with the way the heart functions.

Benign heart tumors include:

Malignant tumors are frequently rhabdomyosarcomas or fibrosarcomas.

What causes cardiac tumors?

A gene abnormality has been described with some tumors (e.g. myxomas) and other medical conditions may have cardiac tumors as part of their disease. Occasionally, children may have a family history of the tumors. Frequently no immediate cause is evident.

What are the signs/symptoms of cardiac tumors?

Many cardiac tumors cause no symptoms or have nonspecific symptoms so diagnosis may not always be easy. Depending on the location of the tumor, and whether it blocks blood flow or impedes heart function in some other way.

Symptoms in infants can include:

  • irritability
  • fever
  • pallor
  • a fast heart and respiratory rate
  • failure to thrive

In older children, in addition to the above symptoms, they may present:

  • abnormal heart sounds and rhythms
  • heart failure
  • palpitations
  • lightheadedness
  • fainting
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing up blood
  • joint pain
  • and other symptoms

What are cardiac tumor care options?

Most childhood tumors are benign, do not cause any symptoms and no treatment may be required. In other instances, depending on tumor (it's position, whether benign or malignant, localized or spread, primary or secondary) therapy will vary. Surgical resection may be required (which may require a heart pacemaker to be installed to correct any heart arrhythmia).


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD

This page was last updated on: September 09, 2020 11:14 AM

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