Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center

Heart Tumor Program

Heart Tumor Treatment, Education & Research at Houston Methodist Hospital

About Heart Tumors

What Are Heart Tumors?

Patient Stories

Louisville, KY

Heart tumor patient, Jennifer with Dr. Michael Reardon and Dr. Monika Leja from the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Heart Tumor Program When Jennifer was diagnosed with angiosarcoma in October 2008, her doctors began searching for an expert in the field of heart tumors. "Naturally, the name Michael Reardon came up immediately," she recalls.

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Patient Stories

Detroit, MI

Heart tumor patient, Kenyatta with Dr. Monika Lejaand  Dr. Michael Reardon from the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Heart Tumor Program When Kenyatta began experiencing dizziness at work in 2009 and consulted a doctor to find out the cause, he embarked on a journey that would change his life.

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Heart tumors are any type of abnormal growth in the tissue of the heart. These tumors are quite uncommon, with an incidence rate of 0.25% or less1, and may be either primary (originating in the heart itself) or secondary (spread from primary tumors in nearby organs such as the lungs).

While the majority of primary heart tumors are noncancerous, even benign varieties can lead to serious health problems if they interfere with the heart’s normal functioning. These complications can include heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms (arrythmias), or heart murmurs. Over time, tumors may also degenerate, which may cause pieces to break off and lodge in small arteries, resulting in a blockage of blood flow to vital organs.

How Are Heart Tumors Detected?

Heart tumors can be difficult to diagnose because their symptoms resemble those of many other conditions. If a tumor is suspected, your doctor will most likely order an echocardiogram. Further imaging with angiography, computer tomography (CT scan), or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may also be included.

What Are the Different Types of Heart Tumors?

The most common types of benign heart tumors are:

  • Myxoma: An irregularly shaped, jellylike heart tumor; the most common of benign primary heart tumors
  • Papillary fibroelastoma: Often arises in or around the heart valves
  • Cardiac paraganglioma: A highly vascular (i.e., having a large blood supply) heart tumor that usually involves the roof of the left atrium
  • Hemangioma: Can arise from the pericardium (sac of fluid around the heart), ventricles, atria, and the tricuspid valve
  • Lipoma: Composed of fatty tissue; most do not cause symptoms but are often removed because of the uncertainty of the diagnosis and risk of malignancy
  • Fibroma: A large, nodular, gray-white tumor that is most common in children
  • Castleman’s disease: A very rare disorder characterized by a benign heart tumor that may develop in the lymph node tissue and extend to the heart

The most common types of malignant heart tumors are:

  • Angiosarcoma: An aggressive tumor that originates in the lining of the blood vessels; the most common type of malignant primary heart tumor
  • Malignant fibrous histiocytoma: A type of soft tissue sarcoma most commonly occurring between age 50 and 70
  • Leiomyosarcoma: A cancer of the smooth muscle cells that are found in involuntary muscles such as the heart
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: A fast-growing tumor that accounts for over half of the soft tissue sarcomas in children

For more information about the Heart Tumor Program or to schedule an appointment, please call 713-DEBAKEY (713-332-2539), or email us at hearttumors@houstonmethodist.org.

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1Source: "Matters of the Heart: Why Are Cardiac Tumors So Rare?" National Cancer Institute, NCI Cancer Bulletin February 10, 2009