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A cardiac tumor is a rare, abnormal growth that develops in the heart. The majority of cardiac tumors in children are benign, meaning they are non-cancerous and are unlikely to spread to other organs. However, because the heart is such an essential organ, even benign tumors can be life threatening. A tumor can interfere with the way the heart works, blocking blood flow to vital organs and causing an abnormal heart rhythm.
There are several types of cardiac tumors in children.
Rhabdomyomas are the most common benign (non cancerous) cardiac tumor, accounting for approximately 60 percent of all heart tumors in children. Typically originating in the right or left ventricle, rhabdomyomas frequently appear as multiple tumors and can be associated with tuberous sclerosis. The majority of rhabdomyomas do not interfere with heart function and may decrease in size over time. However, in some patients rhabdomyomas can interfere with blood flow or cause arrhythmias.
Fibromas are the second most common tumor, accounting for 14 percent of cardiac tumors in children. Almost always located in the ventricles (the great majority in the left ventricle), fibromas may obstruct blood flow and are often associated with arrhythmias and ventricular tachycardia.
Myxomas are rarely seen in children but they are the most common primary cardiac tumor in adults. Most are found in the in the left or right atrium and commonly appear in females. Myxomas can cause obstruction to blood flow, arrhythmias and embolization.
This type of tumor is extremely rare, accounting for less than 10 percent of all cardiac tumors in children. Cardiac hemangiomas can present at any age and can be located in any heart chamber. Large hemangiomas can obstruct blood flow or cause fluid accumulation around the heart.
Usually located adjacent to the right atrium, this rare — often large tumor — is frequently discovered in utero. Teratomas often cause large fluid collections around the heart and compress the heart and blood vessels, which may impair the heart’s function.
Fibroelastoma is an exceedingly rare benign tumor in children, usually located on heart valves and sometimes travels to vital organs such as the brain.
Cardiac lipoma is an exceedingly rare benign tumor comprised of fat tissue. It can be found in all cardiac chambers and rarely impairs cardiac function.
Malignant (cancerous) cardiac tumors — such as angiosarcoma, fibrosarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma — are extremely rare in children. Sarcomas are the most common type, accounting for 75 percent of cases. In general, most malignant cardiac tumors are fairly aggressive with a poor prognosis.
The Boston Children’s Hospital Cardiac Tumor Program, part of the ranked the #1-ranked Heart Center by U.S. News & World Report, has one of the most accomplished teams of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons in the field of managing cardiac tumors in children. Our expertise in diagnosis and treatment leads to better surgical interventions and arrhythmia management for the best possible outcomes.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”