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If your child has a heart tumor, they need care from specialized pediatric doctors who understand these tumors and know which treatments are best. At Atrium Health Levine Children’s, our team works together to create a custom care plan for each child – and we do everything we can to help kids with heart tumors grow up to be happy, healthy adults.

About pediatric heart tumors

Heart tumors are irregular growths in the heart muscle or in one of the heart’s chambers. Our team has seen many types of heart tumors in kids of all ages, including:

Benign heart tumors

Most heart tumors in children are benign, which means they aren’t cancerous and won’t spread. However, these tumors can still cause serious health problems because they can interfere with the heart’s rhythm or the way blood flows in and out of the heart. Common benign heart tumors in kids include:

  • Fibroma: A rare tumor in the heart’s ventricles.
  • Hemangioma: A rare tumor that can grow in the heart chambers or other parts of the body.
  • Myxoma: A tumor in the atrium of the heart.
  • Rhabdomyoma: A tumor that usually starts in the left or right ventricle. This is the most common type of heart tumor in children.

Cancerous heart tumors

Cancerous heart tumors are very rare in children. These tumors happen when cells divide abnormally and are likely to spread to other parts of the body. Most cases are sarcomas (cancers that start in the bones or connective tissues), which include:

  • Angiosarcoma: Tumors in the blood vessels or lymph vessels.
  • Fibrosarcoma: Tumors in the fibroblasts (fibrous cells in the heart and other parts of the body).
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma: Tumors that start in the heart and other muscle tissue.

Diagnosing and treating pediatric heart tumors

Doctors find some heart tumors on an ultrasound when a baby is still in the womb. Other times, we find tumors because of symptoms like a heart murmur. Once we detect a potential problem, we typically use echocardiograms, MRIs or ultrasounds to take pictures of your child’s heart. Then, we’ll evaluate their condition and move forward with:

  • Watchful waiting: Some heart tumors are tiny and will disappear over time. Our team uses advanced tools to evaluate if this is likely for your child. Then we closely monitor your child’s heart, so we can step in if tumors start to grow or cause health problems.
  • Surgery: Some heart tumors harm your child’s heart and require surgery. Our surgeons will remove the tumor and repair any damage it caused. The Levine Children’s team is highly experienced at operating on even the smallest babies. We also take steps to make these procedures as easy on families as possible, for example using minimally invasive procedures so kids heal faster.
  • Chemotherapy: If a child’s heart tumor is cancerous, our cancer care team often uses chemotherapy to shrink the tumor. Sometimes these strong medicines can hurt your child’s heart. We bring in a cardio-oncologist (a doctor who specializes in protecting the heart during cancer treatment) to keep this risk to a minimum.
  • Heart transplant: When heart tumors cause significant damage, a heart transplant may be the best option. Levine Children’s is home to the region’s only pediatric heart transplant programs, allowing families in our area to get top care while staying as close to home as possible. We’re also pioneering transplants for patients and donors who have different blood types, to make this lifesaving procedure available for more kids.

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