Heart tumors are rare, but up to 75% of all cardiac tumors are benign and their primary risk is that as they grow, they may cause other issues in the heart. For people with a benign heart tumor, the best treatment is surgery, which usually completely cures the condition given that recurrence of a benign heart tumor is uncommon. For patients with a rarer malignant cardiac tumor, they typically require a comprehensive approach including surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Endoscopic robotic heart tumor surgery
The surgeons of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, in partnership with Georgia Heart Institute, focus on offering patients the best surgical outcome, while limiting pain and long recovery times. Many patients with a cardiac myxoma are candidates for a robotic approach.
During this surgery, your robotic surgery team will make a few small incisions under the armpit and navigate the endoscope and robot to the heart. This approach does not require sternotomy, the cutting and spreading of the breastplate, sparing patients pain and shortening their recovery significantly.
Open heart tumor surgery
For some patients, open heart surgery may be the best option due to their unique anatomy or needs. In those cases, our cardiothoracic surgeons are experienced with removing cardiac tumors through an open-heart surgery. Once patients leave surgery, we have a wrap-around approach to recovery through our specialized cardiovascular recovery suite and our outpatient cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program.
Frequently asked questions
There is around a 0.02% incidence of heart tumors in the United States population, which means that heart tumors are one of the least common forms of heart disease. Among that small subset of people, three quarters will have a benign tumor (called a cardiac myxoma) and one quarter will be diagnosed with a malignant, or cancerous, heart tumor.
Because the biggest risk of a benign heart tumor are the secondary complications, the symptoms of a heart tumor can be difficult at-times to distinguish between other forms of heart disease. Additionally, if a heart tumor hasn’t grown to a size yet where it has infiltrated other tissues in the heart, it may have no symptoms.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s important to be evaluated by your primary care doctor and a cardiologist:
- Weight loss
- Muscle pain
- Night sweats
- Elevated white blood cell count
- Heart failure
- Obstructed blood flow
- Buildup of blood and fluid in the pericardium (hemorrhagic pericardial effusion)
A cardiologist will use a combination of diagnostics to determine whether a heart tumor is present, including evaluating your clinical history, echocardiography and cardiac CT or MRI if needed.
For people with a benign heart tumor, surgery is an excellent treatment option for anyone except for patients with very high risk. Those who have had surgery to remove a benign heart tumor have normal life expectancies. However, an untreated heart tumor can lead to serious complications, like restricted blood flow, heart failure, arrhythmia, stroke and even sudden cardiac death. Heart tumor surgery, like most heart surgeries, is relatively low risk for most patients.
For those who have a malignant (cancerous) heart tumor, survival rates are poorer. It’s important to connect with a center that offers comprehensive oncology and cardiothoracic surgery programs where both teams work together to develop a treatment plan for the best outcome.
Yes. We offer expertise and surgical options for patients with this rare disorder, which increases the risks of developing tumors.
Connect with our program
Referrals are required for surgical services, but our knowledgeable team is always happy to answer your questions and provide next steps. Call 770-219-7099 to discuss your surgery with our team.
If you are a clinician who needs to refer a patient for cardiothoracic surgery, please contact our program directly at 770-219-7099. Our program coordinator can answer any questions you have and help schedule your patient to see one of our board-certified cardiothoracic surgeons.