Symptoms and Signs of Heart Tumors in Children

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 4/7/2022

Doctor's Notes on Heart Tumors in Children

Heart tumors in children are collections of abnormal cells from or related to heart structures that form tumors that can be benign or cancerous; both types are rare. Benign heart tumors are teratomas. Malignant heart tumor types in children include lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, angiosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, infantile fibrosarcoma, synovial sarcoma, histiocytoid, hemangioma, neurofibroma, and malignant teratoma. Signs and symptoms of these tumor types in children include

  • a fast heart rate,
  • heart rhythm change from normal,
  • pain in the chest that improves when the child sits up,
  • difficult breathing while lying down,
  • coughing,
  • feeling dizzy, tired, and/or weak,
  • fainting,
  • feeling anxious,
  • swelling in ankles, legs, and/or abdomen, and
  • stroke-like symptoms.

The cause(s) of the development of heart tumors in children is unclear. However, an inherited condition termed tuberous sclerosis can cause heart tumors to form in a fetus or newborn.

What Are the Treatments for Heart Tumors in Children?

This is a broad topic (at least 11 different major types of heart tumors) that is best investigated by your child's team of doctors who can design a treatment plan for your child's heart tumor. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists five types of treatment options that may be used in children with a heart tumor:

  • Watchful waiting: monitoring without medication (for example, done with rhabdomyoma)
  • Chemotherapy: stops growth or kills many types of tumor cells
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy: external (beams of X-rays or protons) or implantable radioactive compounds to stop growth or kill many types of heart tumors
  • Targeted therapy: drugs and/or other compounds that attack specific cancer cells

In addition, other treatments are being researched in clinical trials; inclusion of your child in a clinical trial may be suggested by your child's medical team.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.