How to Detect a Cancer in Your Heart

Two Methods:Recognizing SymptomsDiagnosing Heart Cancer

Tumors, which are also referred to as myxomas, can either be malignant or benign. A malignant tumor means that it is cancerous. There are two types of heart cancers: primary and secondary. Primary heart cancer refers to cancers that originated in the heart, while secondary cancer refers to a cancer that started somewhere else in your body and it has since moved to your heart. Myxomas most commonly appear in the left atrium of the heart; this is the section of the heart that receives oxygen from the lungs. If you are concerned that you may have heart cancer, it is important to know what symptoms to look out for, as well as how to schedule appointments that can help you to diagnose your condition.

Method 1
Recognizing Symptoms

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    Understand that some people will not experience symptoms. A person suffering from heart carcinoma (heart cancer), may not actually have any symptoms.[1] If you think you may have heart cancer, talk to your doctor. However, some common symptoms that have occurred because of heart cancer are listed in the following steps.
    • Keep in mind that the following symptoms could also be symptoms of different medical conditions, so if you experience several of these symptoms, contact your doctor and set up some tests (these tests will be covered in the next section).
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    Monitor any chest pain you experience. If you have heart cancer, you may experience strong pain in your chest. When a cancerous tumor grows, it can cause water to accumulate in the area, especially if the tumor is located in the pericardia (which in the membrane that is situated around the heart). This accumulated water can affect how efficiently the heart pumps blood, which in turn can cause pain.
    • This pain should appear in the center of your chest, but can also be experienced in other parts of your body. You may find that the pain is relieved when you sit up.[2] If you are experiencing strong chest pain, go to the emergency room right away, as the pain may be caused by a different medical condition, like a heart attack.
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    Recognize shortness of breath as it occurs. You may begin to feel short of breath if you have heart cancer because the cancer cells can affect the way that circulation occurs in your body.[3] This can limit the amount of oxygen you can bring into your body.
    • This shortness of breath may feel like you can’t catch your breath, even when exerting only a minimal effort or simply lying down. It may also lead to intense fatigue when doing physical activities.
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    Look out for a feeling like your heart is skipping a beat. If you suddenly feel like your heart has gone out of sync, or that it has skipped a beat, and you’ve never felt this way before, this could be a sign of cancer. If you notice this symptom occurring frequently, contact your doctor.
    • Some people describe this sensation as their heart seeming to jump out of their chests.
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    Take note of any fainting spells you have had. If you have suddenly started fainting and have never been prone to fainting before, you should take note. If these fainting spells are caused by cancer, they may be caused by part of the cancerous tumor blocking your circulation. When you stand up, your body may realize it does not have enough oxygen, causing you to faint.
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    Look for signs of embolization. Embolization is when a part of the tumor breaks off from the rest of the tumor and travels to your brain, limbs, liver, or kidney, which causes different symptoms. Some of the symptoms of embolization include:
    • Limb weakness or spasticity.
    • An inability to feel sensations such as vibrations.
    • Limb pain.
    • Challenges or inability to walk.
    • Pain in the liver or kidney.
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    Look for general symptoms associated with cancer. These symptoms are not specific to heart cancer, but may occur as they would in someone who has a different kind of cancer. If you do have these symptoms, they will most likely go away when the cancerous tumor is removed. These signs include:
    • Unexplainable weight loss.
    • Fever.
    • Cold and painful fingers and toes.
    • Anemia.
    • Sweating heavily at night.
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    Talk to your doctor about heart cancer if you have a stroke. A stroke is caused by the blockage of an artery that sends blood to your brain. A cancerous tumor could block an artery leading to your brain, in turn leading to a stroke.
    • If you have a stroke, make sure to talk to your doctor about checking for heart cancer.

Method 2
Diagnosing Heart Cancer

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    Get blood work done. If you have some, or more than half of the symptoms listed in the previous section, you should get blood work done. Assessing your blood in a lab can help your doctor determine what is causing your symptoms, and may confirm or rule out a diagnosis of cancer.[4]
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    Get a chest x-ray. Chest x-rays help to examine your heart and will give your doctor a clear picture of any abnormalities you may have, particularly cancerous growths. Talk to your doctor about setting up an x-ray and what preparation you may have to do.
    • You will have to remove all jewelry, including piercings, before you have your x-ray done.
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    Have your heart rate tested with an electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram is a device that is attached to your body and draws up a visual representation of your heart rate. Small electrodes are attached to your chest, which pick up your heart’s electric pulses, and then print them out on a piece of paper.
    • When this paper is printed up, your doctor uses this visual aid to determine if you have an irregular heartbeat.
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    Schedule an echo-cardiogram. An echo-cardiogram is a device that allows you to see your heart on a monitor, and determine how it is functioning. The device uses ultrasound waves to create a picture of your heart.[5] Your doctor will look at your heart’s movement, and can tell you if there is anything strange occurring.
    • This device can also allow you to hear your heartbeat while watching your heart pump blood.
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    Talk to your doctor about getting an MRI or a CAT scan. Both CAT scans and MRIs can help your doctor to look at your heart and locate any growths that have formed, if any have done so.
    • These scans are intensive and are generally reserved for cases in which the other tests have failed to locate any abnormalities, but the symptoms persist.
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    Set up an appointment with a cardiac surgeon if you are diagnosed with a myxoma. Surgical treatment is the only way to remove a cancerous tumor from your heart. Luckily, once the tumor is removed, it is very rare that it forms again.


  • If you have the symptoms listed above, contact your doctor right away and begin getting tests done. The earlier you catch a cancerous growth, the more efficient your doctor can be at attempting to treat the growth.
  • Myxomas range in size from small tumors (less than 1 cm) to large tumors (more than 10 cm). They vary in shape from globular hard masses to soft lesions having a gelatinous appearance.
  • There is no risk factor clearly associated with this type of tumor. However there is one familial myxoma syndrome called the „Carney complex” which appears around the age of 25 years, and is characterized by multiple myxomas: heart, breast and skin associated with endocrine diseases, testicular and thyroid tumors and spotty skin pigmentation.

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Categories: Cancer | Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure