Conventional cancer treatment may damage the heart or cause heart disease later. National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS) shares the various treatment options.
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Dr Richard Quek, Deputy Head and Senior Consultant,
Division of Medical Oncology,
National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), a member of the
SingHealth group shares on the treatment for heart cancer.
Size of heart cancer matters less
Unlike most other cancers, with heart sarcomas, size is less of a factor when determining treatment.
"The more important question is whether the tumour is located in a place that makes it possible to surgically remove it completely. If it is inoperable, then it doesn't matter how small it is. The ideal situation is, of course, if the tumour is small and operable," said Dr Quek.
Where possible, surgery is done to remove as much of the cancer as possible. The patient will then undergo radiation to kill off any remaining cancerous cells. Chemotherapy may be used instead of radiation if the location of the tumour is not suitable for radiation.
However, because it is the heart that is affected, surgery is often not an option. The alternative is to use radiation or chemotherapy to try and shrink the tumour, and in doing so, minimise the symptoms.
Risk of metastatic cancer
The possibility of the cancer spreading to other areas is another concern. Because blood flows past the cancerous area in the heart before going to other parts of the body, chances of the cancer spreading to the lungs are high. The cancer may also spread to the bones or liver. This makes heart sarcoma patients poor candidates for heart transplants.
But Dr Quek said there is still hope: There have been advancements in surgical techniques, development of more pinpointed, targeted radiation, as well as research into new drugs.
"While these new treatment options may not provide a cure yet, they can most definitely delay the disease," he said.