Why is Heart Cancer Rare?

Cancer arising from the heart is called primary cardiac tumor or heart cancer. Tumors that are malignant or cancerous that starts in this area are usually something called a sarcoma. These are cancer types that start in the body’s soft tissues. When it comes to tumors of the heart, the majority are benign or noncancerous. According to the Mayo Clinic, they see just one case of heart cancer each year.

Heart tumors mostly start with hamartomas, rhabdomyoma, fibromas and myxomas. Sarcomas that are malignant like cardiac sarcomas or angiosarcoma have also been known to appear. Even rarer are PMCT’s or primary malignant cardiac tumors. The mortality associated with this is high with the worst survival for mesotheliomas and sarcomas. There had been better rates of survival for lymphomas. The worst survival is for PMCT’s compared to extracardiac tumors.

Even when you search for tumors of the heart online, you may not get as many results as expected. The reason is that the heart is nearly immune to cancer. This is good news considering how important the heart is to the body. The question is:

Why is it rare?

Tumors that originate from the heart itself, called primary cardiac tumors, are quite rare. Most diagnoses of cardiac tumors are not cancerous. There is one type of tumor which is gelatinous called a myxoma that is more common in adults. In children in infants, a syndrome called tuberous sclerosis is associated with rhabdomyoma generally.

Indeed, cancer of the heart is very rare. As a matter of fact, majority of heart cancers come from somewhere else in the body. For example, lung cancer which grows near the heart grows to involve the heart lining or the heart. It can also start somewhere else and spread through the blood. Heart cancer that may have started from somewhere else can include those originating from melanoma, lymphoma, leukemia, lung cancer, kidney cancer, and breast cancer. Often, there are other ways to which cancer affects the heart. Sometimes, heart valves can be damaged by hormones produced by a rare cancer type known as carcinoid tumors.

Heart damage can also come from treatment of cancer. Heart problems linked to treatments for cancer include a lot of drugs used for chemotherapy, radiation therapy aimed near the heart and heart problems. Hormone therapy can also cause problems in the heart. Some of these are found during treatment while others do not make themselves known for years. Heart damage in many cases is reversible while at other times, these are permanent.

Cancer of the heart is rare, and in fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that they see a diagnosis of just one per year of persons suffering from this condition. There are more chances of getting heart cancer as a result of cancer from other parts of the body spreading to the heart.