Childhood Cardiac (Heart) Tumors Treatment

  • Childhood cardiac tumors, which may be benign or malignant, form in the heart.
  • Signs and symptoms of a heart tumor include a change in the heart’s normal rhythm and trouble breathing.
  • Tests that examine the heart are used to detect (find) and diagnose a heart tumor.

Childhood cardiac tumors, which may be benign or malignant, form in the heart.

Most tumors that form in the heart are benign (not cancer). Benign heart tumors that may appear in children include the following:

  • Rhabdomyoma: A tumor that forms in muscle made up of long fibers.
  • Myxoma: A tumor that may be part of an inherited syndrome called Carney complex. See the PDQ summary on Childhood Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia Syndromes for more information.
  • Teratomas: A type of germ cell tumor. In the heart, these tumors form most often in the pericardium (the sac that covers the heart). Some teratomas are malignant (cancer).
  • Fibroma: A tumor that forms in fiber-like tissue that holds bones, muscles, and other organs in place.
  • Histiocytoid cardiomyopathy tumor: A tumor that forms in the heart cells that control heart rhythm.
  • Hemangiomas: A tumor that forms in the cells that line blood vessels.
  • Neurofibroma: A tumor that forms in the cells and tissues that cover nerves.

Signs and symptoms of a heart tumor include a change in the heart’s normal rhythm and trouble breathing.

These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by heart tumors or by other conditions.

Check with your child’s doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Change in the heart’s normal rhythm.
  • Trouble breathing, especially when the child is lying down.
  • Pain or tightness in the middle of the chest that feels better when the child is sitting up.
  • Coughing.
  • Fainting.
  • Feeling dizzy, tired, or weak.
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Swelling in the legs, ankles, or abdomen.
  • Feeling anxious.
  • Signs of a stroke.

Stages of Heart Tumors

The process used to find out if malignant heart tumors (cancer) have spread from the heart to nearby areas or other parts of the body is called staging. There is no standard system for staging malignant childhood heart tumors. The results of tests and procedures done to diagnose malignant heart tumors are used to help make decisions about treatment.

Recurrent malignant heart tumors have recurred (come back) after treatment.

There are different types of treatment for children with heart tumors.

Some treatments are standard (the currently used treatment), and some are being tested in clinical trials. A treatment clinical trial is a research study meant to help improve current treatments or obtain information on new treatments for patients with cancer. When clinical trials show that a new treatment is better than the standard treatment, the new treatment may become the standard treatment.

Because cancer in children is rare, taking part in a clinical trial should be considered. Some clinical trials are open only to patients who have not started treatment.

Treatment of Childhood Heart Tumors

For information about the treatments listed below, see the Treatment Option Overview section.

Treatment of childhood heart tumors may include the following:

  • Watchful waiting, for rhabdomyoma, which sometimes shrinks and goes away on its own.
  • Targeted therapy (everolimus) for patients who have rhabdomyoma and tuberous sclerosis.
  • Chemotherapy followed by surgery (which may include removing some or all of the tumor or a heart transplant), for sarcomas.
  • Surgery alone, for other tumor types.
  • Radiation therapy for tumors that cannot be removed by surgery.

What is Cancer?

  • Cancer can start almost anywhere in the human body, which is made up of trillions of cells. Normally, human cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old or become damaged, they die, and new cells take their place.

  • Cancer prevention is action taken to lower the risk of getting cancer. This can include maintaining a healthy lifestyle, avoiding exposure to known cancer-causing substances, and taking medicines or vaccines that can prevent cancer from developing.

  • Cancer can cause many different symptoms. Most often these symptoms are not caused by cancer, but by benign tumors or other problems. If you have symptoms that last for a couple of weeks, your doctor will do a physical exam and order tests or other procedures to find out what is causing your symptoms.