- Primary cardiac tumor: Starts in the heart
- Secondary cardiac tumors: Starts elsewhere in the body and spreads to the heart
In general, most primary cardiac tumors are noncancerous and do not spread to other organs from the heart. Primary cardiac angiosarcoma, however, is a rare type of cancerous tumor that is especially aggressive.
What are the symptoms of cardiac sarcoma?
Symptoms of cardiac sarcoma vary depending on the location of the tumor: external surface of the heart, within one or more chambers of the heart, or inside the muscular part of the heart.
Cardiac angiosarcomas in the right atrium obstruct the flow of blood, making it difficult for blood that travels in and out to enter or be pumped out. Symptoms include swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen, as well as engorged neck veins.
Cardiac angiosarcomas that involve the pericardium (thin sac surrounding the heart) can cause increased fluid levels inside the sac. The tumor either blocks the drainage of the fluid inside this sac or increases its production within it. Either way, this compromises the optimum pumping of blood by the heart. Symptoms may include chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and generalized weakness.
Tumor pieces (emboli) can travel to distant organs, blocking blood vessels and blood flow. This can cause pain and organ damage. Emboli in the brain can lead to stroke. Emboli in the lungs can cause respiratory distress.
Other symptoms of cardiac sarcomas include:
Signs of cardiac sarcoma not related to the location of the tumor may include:
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Fingers that change color or turn blue on pressure application
- Increased nail curvature with enlargement of the soft tissue of the finger
Since symptoms of cardiac sarcoma may be similar to those of other cardiac conditions, you should consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
How is cardiac sarcoma diagnosed?
In addition to medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for cardiac sarcoma may include:
- Echocardiogram. Noninvasive test that uses sound waves to help your doctor see the exact size and location of the tumor. In a transesophageal echo, a flexible tube is guided down the throat and esophagus, which allows for more detailed pictures of the heart.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). Records the electrical activity of the heart and detects abnormal heart rhythms and heart muscle damage. Other diagnostic tools are needed to make a definitive diagnosis of cardiac sarcoma.
- Computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. Shows detailed images of organs in the body and are used to define the size, location and other characteristics of the tumor.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Uses magnetic radiofrequency and a computer to further define the size, location and other characteristics of the tumor.
- Chest X-ray. May detect an enlarged heart or pulmonary congestion, although less specific in diagnosing cardiac tumors.
- Cardiac catheterization. Uses a contrast dye to illuminate images on an X-ray and locate the narrowing and blockages of specific arteries.
- Biopsy. Removes a small piece of tissue from the tumor to evaluate the cells and diagnose the disease.
- Blood tests. May be ordered to rule out other conditions.
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Raaf JH. Cardiac Sarcoma. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/277297-overview#a1
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