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Angiosarcoma of the heart

This page tells you about angiosarcoma of the heart. There is information about

 

Cancers of the heart

Tumours that affect the heart are very rare. It is more usual for a cancer that started somewhere else in the body to spread to the heart. 

Of tumours that start in the heart, most are not cancer (benign) but about 1 in 4 (25%) are cancers. Most commonly these are soft tissue sarcomas. Soft tissue connects, supports, and surrounds the other structures and organs of the body. Angiosarcomas are a type of soft tissue sarcoma that grow from cells that make up the walls of blood vessels.

 

Causes of angiosarcoma of the heart

We don’t know what causes angiosarcoma of the heart, although we do know that some have been linked to past radiotherapy treatment. As it is such a rare cancer, it is difficult to find a common cause.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary depending on where in the heart the cancer is. Many people don’t have any symptoms until the cancer is advanced.

If you do have symptoms, they can be similar to those caused by heart failure.  They may include breathlessness, heart pain, or fluid on the lung (pleural effusion). Sometimes a small piece of the tumour can break off and form a small clump or clot that blocks a blood vessel. Doctors call this an embolism. If an embolism travels through the bloodstream, it can block a blood vessel near the heart, causing pain (angina). Embolisms can also travel to other parts of the body, for example, the brain, where they can cause a stroke.

 

Tests

If doctors suspect that someone has a tumour of the heart, they will usually arrange

 

Treatment

The main treatment for angiosarcoma of the heart is surgery to completely remove it. But unfortunately, in most people it isn't possible to take all the tumour out. Unless the surgeon can remove all the tumour with a border of cancer free tissue around it, the cancer is likely to come back. Other treatments doctors use include chemotherapy and radiotherapy

Sadly, angiosarcoma of the heart is often a quickly growing disease. In about 8 out of 10 people, the cancer has already spread to another part of the body when it is diagnosed. The most common place for it to spread is the lungs. In this situation, surgery won't cure it. The doctor may offer other treatment to try and control the disease and any symptoms for a time.

 

More information

It can be hard to find information about angiosarcoma of the heart because it is so rare. You can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You could also join an online forum. Cancer Chat is Cancer Research UK's online forum. Some of the general cancer organisations also have forums where you can discuss your situation with other patients and relatives.

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Updated: 1 July 2013