What are Heart Tumors?
Hemangioma tumors are made up of new lymph or blood vessels, and they are generally harmless, as they do not spread throughout their body. Hemangiosarcoma tumors develop in the blood vessels of the heart and affect its ability to function properly. If left untreated, the tumors can spread to the liver, spleen, lungs and heart. This can lead to other health problems, collapse, and death.
Benign tumors that start in the heart valve tissues are known as fibromas. Fibrosarcoma is a tumor of the heart valve tissue that is not benign. Tumors of the upper heart chambers are known as myxomas when benign and myxosarcomas when malignant. Rhabdomyosarcoma is a malignant tumor that starts in the skeletal heart muscle.
Though rare, several types of heart tumors may develop in cats. Tumors are generally classified by their location or makeup.
Symptoms of Heart Tumors in Cats
Symptoms may vary depending on where the tumors are located, and usually appear when the tumor has ruptured. You may notice the following symptoms of heart tumors:
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart murmurs
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Fluid in abdomen
If you notice any signs of heart tumors, take your cat to the veterinarian immediately. The symptoms could be a sign that the tumor has started to rupture and bleed.
There are several types of tumors that occur near or within the heart:
- Hemangioma: Benign tumors made up of lymph or blood vessels that have just formed.
- Hemangiosarcoma: Malignant tumors that start in the blood vessels of the heart.
- Fibroma and fibrosarcoma: Develop in the heart valve tissues.
- Myxomas and myxosarcomas: Develop in the upper heart chambers.
- Rhabdomyosarcoma: Malignant tumor of the skeletal muscle of the heart.
Secondary tumors that can spread to the heart are as follow:
- Lymphomas: Tumors of the lymph nodes, which are malignant.
- Osteosarcomas: Tumors of the bone, which are also malignant.
- Neurofibromas: Tumors of the nerve fibers, which are benign.
- Granular cell tumors: It is unknown where these benign or malignant tumors develop.
Causes of Heart Tumors in Cats
The cause of heart tumors in cats is not completely known by veterinarians. The tumors can come on unexpectedly and develop in any area of the body. There are also tumors that start in another part of the body and spread to the heart, such as lymphomas, neurofibromas, and granular cell tumors.
Diagnosis of Heart Tumors in Cats
Your veterinarian will give your cat a physical exam and ask questions about its medical history. Expect your veterinarian to run additional tests to check for benign or malignant tumors and see if they have spread throughout the body. The tests include a complete blood count, platelet numbers, chemical blood profile and a urinalysis.
Chest x-rays and an echocardiography may be performed to look for tumors and check that the heart is functioning properly. Your veterinarian will use an electrocardiogram to evaluate the electrical currents of the heart. Abdominal x-rays are performed to check for tumors and other problems in the stomach, intestines and spleen.
Your cat may also need to undergo an abdominal tap, pericardial tap and clotting test. There is a chance your veterinarian will need to perform a biopsy by surgically removing a sample of the tumor.
It is important to have the heart tumor diagnosed and treated before it becomes fatal for your cat.
Treatment of Heart Tumors in Cats
Surgery is recommended for most types of heart tumors in cats. The prognosis depends on the severity of the tumor and whether or not it has spread throughout the body.
Treatment of a Benign Tumor
Surgical removal is the best option for a benign tumor, and the prognosis following the surgery is usually good.
Treatment of a Malignant Tumor
Your veterinarian may recommend chemotherapy and surgery to reduce the growth and spread of the tumor. The tumor can be removed if it is small and has not spread throughout the body. If the tumor has already grown and spread throughout the body, then the prognosis is usually poor.
Recovery of Heart Tumors in Cats
Whether heart tumors are benign or malignant, follow up appointments are an important part of the recovery process. Your veterinarian will check to see if the tumors are still growing or spreading. They will also make sure your cat is not having a negative reaction to the treatment. Your veterinarian will also give you the final prognosis, which depends on the severity of the tumors.
It is important to follow the instructions from your veterinarian despite the prognosis. The goal is to keep your cat comfortable throughout its lifespan.
Heart Tumors Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Hello, please can you advise on what type of heart tumour you think my cat may have? She has a large tumor behind her heart which has pushed the heart down and is affecting her breathing and eating. She has always been a daily regurgitator.
Tumours of the heart are uncommon in cats but when they do occur, lymphoma is the most common type of tumour accounting for almost a third of cases. It is probable that the tumour may be a tumour originated from the thymus which is causing the displacement of the heart and other symptoms; a biopsy would be useful for histopathology. Below is a link to tumours of the thymus. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Thank you very much for taking the time to reply to my question on Talia's condition.
I am based in the UK and because of Talia's age, I have found it difficult to locate a vet that is happy to operate or even do an MRI scan of the tumour.
I am currently feeding Talia through a syringe and giving her Amino Acids, B-complex and a steroid.
Thank you for writing this. It was helpful.
My 13 year old domestic has had an asthma like cough for nearly three months now.. I got her into the vet yesterday and they did a chest scan .. they found a mass on her lung and a large mass on her heart.. Given her age I just want to make her comfortable for the remainder of her life span.. I'm not so sure chemo or surgery would be comfortable or safe for her. She is on thyroid meds for hyperthyroid so she eats and drinks very well.
Does anyone know what signs and symptoms I can expect from her if I do persue surgery or chemo?
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