Can You Get Cancer of the Heart?



Did you know that getting cancer of the heart is extremely rare? In fact, a study done at the Mayo Clinic revealed that you may see 1 case of cancer in the heart a year! In 2018, there were 266,120 newly diagnosed cases of invasive breast cancers in women. That's not including non-invasive breast cancer or in counting men. When you compare that to maybe only 1 cancer case of the heart a year, one must begin to wonder what it is about the heart that makes it so special?


First of all, its a really good thing you don't see many cancers of the heart because that vital organ is kind of important in keeping you alive. Secondly, heart cells are extremely specialized and once mature, they don't really divide or replicate. The heart can get bigger because the cells themselves get bigger but they don't divide. This can be a good thing and also a bad thing. It's good because that's most likely why the heart is mostly immune to tumors but when the cells get damaged, they don't exactly repair themselves. In fact, a primary or secondary tumor of the heart is actually quite deadly, according to Dr. Robert J. Cusminano, a cardiac surgeon at Toronto General Hospital. This is very different than other areas of our body that are more prone to cancers. For example, Estrogen is very prolific, meaning it promotes cell division to build tissue. When someone is "estrogen dominant", their cells go a little crazy and can build into fibroids, cysts, and cancerous tumors but unlike cardiac tumors, the survival rate of breast cancer is 90% in 5 years. The 5 year survival rate of cardiac tumors is 17% but on average people usually survive 9 months.


Because primary tumors of the heart are so rare, it hasn't been extensively researched and Dr. R. J. Cusimano, recommends that the patient should be funneled to hospitals and oncologists that have experience treating this condition for better patient outcomes and understanding of this condition.


Dr. Lexi Lain 2/4/2019


References:

Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D. 2019, Jan. 09. Is There Such a Thing as Heart Cancer? https://www.mayoclinic.org/heart-cancer/expert-answers/FAQ-20058130


U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics. https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/understand_bc/statistics


National Cancer Institue. 2009. Feb. 10. Matters of the Heart: Why Are Cardiac Tumors So Rare? https://www.cancer.gov/types/metastatic-cancer/research/cardiac-tumors


Monika J. Leja MD. Dipan J. Shah, MD, and Michael J. Reardon MD. Text Heart Inst J. 2011; 38 (3): 261-262. Primary Cardiac Tumors. PMID: 21720466. PMCID: PMC3113129


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