Heart cancer develops from a heart tumour like angiosarcoma or when cancer cells spread to the heart from cancer in a nearby vital organ or via the blood (leukaemia). For instance, lung cancer may spread to the heart, causing secondary heart cancer and it is called metastatic cancer. Cancer that originates in the heart is primary heart cancer and it is a very rare type of cancer. This leads to heart failure, pericarditis, and arrhythmias. Anyone can develop heart cancer and disease is more likely to affect men aged 30 to 50 but rare in women. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery to remove heart tumours can ease symptoms and extend life span.


Angiosarcoma is a rare type of malignant soft tissue cancer, that occurs in 9 out of 10 primary cancers in adults. The exact cause of angiosarcoma is unknown, however, radiation and some toxins may be contributing factors. Subtypes of sarcoma can also develop in the heart and great vessels – the aorta, pulmonary arteries.

Secondary heart cancer is 30 to 40 times more common, this type of metastatic cancer spread to the heart from a diseased organ such as the skin, lungs, and kidneys. It can also spread from thymus gland tumour cells that lie in the chest or from blood (leukaemia) and the lymphatic system(lymphoma).

 Researchers believe that certain people are more likely to develop primary heart cancer because of gene mutation. A gene called protection of telomeres protein 1(POT1) present in the parent can transmit it to their children.


The most common sign of heart cancer is sudden heart failure. A person may also experience shortness of breath and extreme tiredness if the tumour is pressing on a chamber of the heart or growing within the heart affecting the proper functioning of the valve.

Other signs and symptoms of heart cancer include:

Arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm)

Chest pain


Cardiac tumours are usually found incidentally while doing an imaging study like an echocardiogram or CT scan or MRI done for other medical reasons.

Primary heart cancer can spread to the nervous system -spine or brain. It can also travel to the lungs and symptoms of heart cancer that spreads include:

Chronic back pain


Coughing up blood

Also Read: Heart Failure: Symptoms, Causes, Types And Treatment


Heart cancer affects cardiac function and can lead to an array of potentially life-threatening problems. It also increases a person’s risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or severe cardiac failure.

A small heart tumour can break free and travel via the bloodstream, these pieces can get clogged in a blood vessel resulting in a blood clot that leads to stroke of it travels to the brain or respiratory issues, if it goes to the lungs. Further, heart cancer can also affect the pericardium, the sac that surrounds the heart.


Generally, doctors often find diagnose heart tumours when finding out the cause of heart problems. Some of the tests suggested by the healthcare providers to confirm the diagnosis include:

Complete blood count (CBC)

Chest X-rays

CT scan or MRI


Electrocardiogram (EKG)

Coronary angiography and cardiac catheterization

Coronary computed tomography angiogram (CTA)

Also Read: PET Scan: Know Why It Is Done And What To Expect?


The main mode of treatment for cancer is chemotherapy or radiation therapy (or a combination of both) that can shrink a heart tumour and ease symptoms. If metastatic occurs in the heart, then healthcare providers will treat that main cancer. The treatment plan mainly depends on the tumour location and size, as well as factors like the patient overall health condition and age. Surgery to remove the tumour may be an ideal way to extend the life span if it can be completely removed.