Is there such a thing as heart cancer?
Answer From Karthik Giridhar, M.D.
Yes. Most tumors that form in the heart aren't cancerous. But some heart tumors can be cancerous.
Cancer that begins in the heart is most often sarcoma, a type of cancer that originates in the soft tissues of the body.
Heart cancer (malignant primary cardiac tumor) is extremely rare. One study reviewed more than 12,000 autopsies and found only seven people with primary cardiac tumor. At Mayo Clinic, on average only one person with heart cancer is seen each year.
Although still rare, most cancers found in the heart have come from elsewhere in the body. Cancers that begin near the heart, such as lung cancer and breast cancer, can grow to involve the heart or the lining around the heart (pericardial sac). Or cancer can begin elsewhere in the body and spread to the heart through the bloodstream. Cancers that may affect the heart include lung cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma, among others.
Karthik Giridhar, M.D.
April 23, 2022
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See more Expert Answers
- Bonow RO, et al., eds. Tumors affecting the cardiovascular system. In: Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Saunders Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Gaasch WH, et al. Cardiac tumors. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed March 31, 2020.
- Simpson L, et al. Malignant primary cardiac tumors: Review of a single institution experience. Cancer. 2008; doi:10.1002/cncr.23459.