Because tumors in the heart can mimic other heart diseases, they are difficult to diagnose accurately. Tumors of the heart may involve the:
- Epicardium, the sheath of tissue that covers the heart
- Myocardium, the muscles of the heart wall
- Endocardium, the membrane that lines the cavities of the heart
The symptoms and signs of the condition tend to indicate what part of the heart is affected. If a person who has malignant tumors in another part of their body develops symptoms of heart disease, it may be a sign that the tumor has spread to the heart.
Myxoma cause three general patterns of symptoms:
- Symptoms that mimic such conditions as bacterial endocarditis, collagen-vascular disease and clinically undetectable malignancies
- Embolisms, in which fragments of the tumor breakaway into the blood stream and causes clots or blockages
- Blockages of the blood flow. Blood flow may be blocked at the opening of any heart valve, commonly the mitral valve.
Interference in the way the heart works by the tumor can create symptoms similar to valve disorders caused by rheumatic disease including lung congestion and heart murmurs. The precise sounds may be different in myxoma compared to actual mitral valve disorders especially when the position of the body is changed. Usually people with myxoma don't have the amount of enlargement of the left atrium as persons who have valve disease do.
Cardiac symptoms of rhabomyomas and fibromas include:
- Rapid heart beats
- Enlargement of the heart
- Signs of a blockage to the flow of blood out of the ventricles
- Heart murmurs
If cardiac symptoms are also present with features of tuberous sclerosis, there is probably a benign tumor present. This can be confirmed by echocardiography or angiocardiography. Surgical treatment of multiple nodules is usually ineffective, and the prognosis is poor beyond the first year of life.
Symptoms of a heart tumor caused by the spread of a malignancy from another part of the body include:
- Sudden enlargement of the heart,
- Bizarre changes in the shape of the heart on a chest x-ray
- A blockage
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Unexplained heart failure
Symptoms of malignant cardiac tumors that originate in the heart may include:
- Sudden heart failure
- A rapid accumulation of bloody fluid in the lining around the heart, often with a blockage of the blood flow in the heart
- Various kinds of arrhythmias
Compared to benign tumors, malignant cardiac tumors tend to cause more severe and rapid deterioration and may spread to the spine, nearby soft tissues and major organs.
Causes and Risk Factors
Myxomas tend to run in families and may be at least partially genetic. Having a malignant tumor in another part of the body that can spread to heart - especially, melanoma, breast or lung cancer - can put you at a greater risk of developing a malignant tumor of the heart.