Facts About Heart Cancer

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Cancer is a frightening topic, no matter what part of the body it affects. Some parts of the body are more susceptible to developing cancer than others. After a cancer diagnosis, thoughts of the physician and the patient immediately turn to the treatment options and the possibility of recurrence. Surgery to remove the affected tissues is sometimes an option, but in some cases that isn't possible. When the heart is involved, extreme care must be taken to treat the cancer in the least invasive way.

  1. Incidence

    • Although tumors in the heart occur, the majority of them turn out to be noncancerous. The thought is more than a little scary, but the fact is heart cancer is very rare. The incidence of tumors of the heart is less than 0.1 percent, and only a very small fraction of those are malignant, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    Types

    • When a malignant cancer of the heart is diagnosed, most often it is a type called sarcoma. This type of cancer attacks the soft tissues of the body. Sometimes cancers that originate in the chest or other areas of the body, such as lymphoma, can travel to the heart and begin to affect it, too. Other cancers that can affect the heart are sarcomas and melanomas.

    Cardiac Fibrosis

    • Other conditions also can cause heart cancer. Marantic endocarditis affects the heart valves, and cardiac fibrosis causes the heart muscle to stiffen. When this happens, the heart must work harder, and the patient then becomes susceptible to a host of other maladies such as arrhythmia and heart failure.

    Chemotherapy

    • Chemotherapy drugs given during cancer treatment may aggravate the situation. Drugs such as anthracyclines, Cytoxan, 5-FU, Herceptin, taxanes and IL-2 are very hard on the heart. Using these drugs is likely to cause other types of heart problems for the patient.

    Radiation

    • Radiation treatments also can have a direct effect on the heart. Complications such as congestive heart disease and heart murmurs may appear during treatment. The heart may be damaged by the radiation therapy directed toward it, and the risk of coronary disease can increase.

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