A cardiac sarcoma is a rare tumor of the heart which may be found anywhere on the surface or inside the heart. Commonly, it is a type of angiosarcoma that forms in the right atrium of the heart where it causes a blockage and affects blood flow. As a result, you may experience symptoms such as edema (swelling) in the feet, ankles or belly, or your neck veins may appear “stretched.” A cardiac sarcoma that forms in the pericardium, the thin membrane lining the heart, may cause bleeding and swelling in the pericardial sac, which in turn prevents the heart’s ability to pump blood properly. Possible symptoms may include chest pain, heart palpitations, and shortness of breath.

If the condition has progressed to causing symptoms, this may indicate that the sarcoma has grown and spread (metastasized). A cardiac sarcoma can be either benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous), but due to the location of the tumor in the delicate areas of the heart, this type of condition can be quite dangerous and difficult to treat—even if the tumor is benign.

To diagnose cardiac sarcoma, your doctor may order certain tests, such as echocardiogram (echo), electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), CT scan, MRI, X-ray, cardiac catheterization, and biopsy.

Based on the results of the tests as well as your age, health condition, and a variety of other factors, your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. This will depend greatly on the size and location of the tumor, but often includes some combination of surgery and medication. If the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be used.

To schedule an appointment with a Lankenau Heart Institute specialist, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.