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Cardiac Tumors

Cardiac tumors are abnormal growths in the heart or heart valves. These tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Malignant tumors are fast-growing and likely to spread to other parts of the body quickly. On the other hand, benign tumors are slow-growing and often harmless depending on where in the body they are located. Cardiac tumors are rare, usually benign and produce no symptoms.

Get Your Heart Checked

Types of Cardiac Tumors

  • Primary Tumors: These types of cardiac tumors grow in the heart and do not spread anywhere else. They are very rare and most are benign. The most common type is called myxoma.
  • Secondary Tumors: These types of cardiac tumors originate in another part of the body and move to the heart. Secondary tumors are much more common than primary tumors. Most often, these tumors start in the lungs, breasts, stomach, kidneys, liver or colon.

Causes of Cardiac Tumors

Although there are several causes to developing a cardiac tumor, certain conditions, traits or habits may raise your risk. These conditions are known as risk factors.

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors are irreversible and cannot be changed. If you have a family history or genetic predisposition, your chance of developing cardiac tumors are higher.

Modifiable Risk Factors: These factors can be modified, treated or controlled through medications or lifestyle changes. If you have a long history of cigarette smoking and/or drug abuse, your risk is higher.

Other conditions that contribute to the development of cardiac tumors:

  • Abnormal regulation of cell division.
  • Immune system incapable of detecting and fighting abnormal growths.
  • Radiation therapy
  • Autosomal conditions such as LAMB and NAME syndromes.

Symptoms of Cardiac Tumors

Many times, patients do not know they have a cardiac tumor as symptoms are not commonly present. However, for those with a primary cardiac tumor “myxoma,” symptoms may appear if blood flow is blocked and there is an increased pressure in the left atrium. Symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Fever or cough
  • Difficulty breathing when lying flat or when asleep.
  • Lightheadedness/fainting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Painful and tender joints noticed most often in the knees, ankles, elbows and wrists.
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles or abdomen.

Diagnosis of Cardiac Tumors

Most primary cardiac tumors are discovered when patients are in their 50s and 60s. However, they can be found in younger patients, too. Because they are rare and their symptoms are so similar to other heart diseases and conditions, primary heart tumors are often difficult to diagnose. If your doctor thinks you may have a cardiac tumor, several tests can be used to confirm the diagnosis, including the following:

Treatment of Cardiac Tumors

There are several treatment options for cardiac tumors. Treatment options include medications and medical and surgical procedures.


  • Chemotherapy treatment will help stop or slow the growth of cancer cells.

Medical and Surgical Procedures

Request an Appointment

Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center
94 Old Short Hills Road
Livingston, NJ 07039
(973) 322-5000
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
Jersey City Medical Center
355 Grand Street
Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 915-2000
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
1 Robert Wood Johnson Place
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
(732) 828-3000

Cardiac Tumors Treatment & Care

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