Heart Tumors

Heart tumors are any type of abnormal growth in the tissue of the heart. These tumors may be either primary (originating in the heart itself) or secondary (originating from a primary tumor in a nearby organ such as the lungs).

While the majority of primary heart tumors are benign (approximately 75 percent), even noncancerous varieties can lead to serious health problems if they interfere with the heart’s normal functioning. These complications can include heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) or heart murmurs. Over time, tumors may also degenerate, which may cause pieces to break off and lodge in small arteries, resulting in a blockage of blood flow to vital organs.

The U-M Cardiac Tumor Review Board brings together leading experts from health centers around the country via videoconference once a month to develop coordinated care practices and to better understand the genetics of heart tumors. Together, these experts collaborate to determine the most effective method of treating each patient.

Heart Tumor Detection and Treatment

Heart tumors can be difficult to diagnose because their symptoms resemble those of many other conditions. If a tumor is suspected, an echocardiogram is normally performed. Further imaging with angiography, computer tomography (CT scan), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be done.

Treatment of both benign and malignant heart tumors typically requires comprehensive diagnostic workup followed by surgical removal. Depending on the location of the tumor, complete removal may not be possible using standard surgical techniques.

U-M’s multi-disciplinary team takes an individualized approach to each patient, with the goal of achieving the best possible outcome. Our Review Board meets on a monthly basis to discuss cases and to determine whether surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or other therapies will result in the best patient outcome.

Symptoms of Heart Tumors

Symptoms of a primary heart tumor may include:

  • Difficulty breathing when lying flat or when asleep
  • Fainting, lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Palpitations or rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain or tightness in the chest

Patient Resources

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