Heart Tumor | Diagnosis & Treatment

How are cardiac tumors diagnosed?

Tumors often begin growing even before a child is born. But with the aid of diagnostic techniques, such as fetal echocardiography, early detection is now possible, sometimes as early as 20 weeks pregnant. Some tumors may not be discovered until later in pregnancy or after birth.

Since tumors in the heart often mimic symptoms and signs of more common conditions in infants and children, diagnosis requires imaging the heart. After a baby is born several tests may be performed to determine an accurate diagnosis:

  • echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart): Sound waves pass through the chest to create an image of the heart, outline the tumor and evaluate blood flow.
  • cardiovascular MRI: evaluates the structure and function of the heart and blood vessels and determine the type of tumor
  • cardiac CT: used to visualize the heart, blood vessels and lungs
  • chest x-ray: may show abnormalities that lead to detailed cardiac imaging
  • cardiac catheterization: evaluates blockage of blood flow from the tumor and coronary arteries
  • electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): measures the electrical activity of the heart

How are benign cardiac tumors treated?

Benign (non cancerous) cardiac tumors are often very large, leading to compression of vital cardiac structures and the obstruction of blood flow in and out of the cardiac chambers. Surgery is typically the treatment of choice but is dependent on the tumor size, location, type, blood supply and impact on the child’s heart function and arrhythmias.

Removing a heart tumor usually requires open-heart surgery. During the procedure, the surgeon will remove the tumor and some of the surrounding tissue from the heart and perform any necessary repairs or reconstruction to ensure the heart functions properly.

How are malignant cardiac tumors treated?

Surgery for malignant (cancerous) tumors may be an option, but typically treatment is palliative in nature and involves radiation, chemotherapy and management of symptoms. In some cases, heart transplantation is an option.