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Metastases from malignant tumors can also affect the heart. Most often this occurs in malignant melanoma, but other tumors that are known to metastasize to the heart include bronchogenic carcinoma; carcinoma of the breast; lymphoma; renal cell carcinoma; sarcomas; and, in patients with AIDS, Kaposi sarcoma. These are often clinically silent but may lead to pericardial tamponade, arrhythmias and conduction disturbances, heart failure, and peripheral emboli. The ECG may reveal regional Q waves. The diagnosis is often made by echocardiography, but cardiac MRI and CT scanning can often better delineate the extent of involvement. Metastatic tumors, especially lung or breast, may invade the pericardium and result in very large pericardial effusions as they result in slow accumulation of fluid. The prognosis is poor for all secondary cardiac tumors and treatment is generally palliative. On occasion, surgical resection for debulking or removal and chemotherapy may be effective in relieving symptoms.


Many primary tumors may be resectable. Atrial myxomas should be removed surgically due to the high incidence of embolization from these friable tumors. Recurrences require lifelong monitoring with echocardiography. Papillary fibroelastomas are usually benign but they should be removed if they appear mobile and are larger than 10 mm in size or if there is evidence of embolization at the time of discovery. Large pericardial effusions from metastatic tumors may be drained for comfort, but the fluid invariably recurs. Rhabdomyomas may be surgically cured if the tumor is accessible and can be removed while still leaving enough functioning myocardium intact.


All patients with suspected cardiac tumors should be referred to a cardiologist or cardiac surgeon for evaluation and possible therapy.

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