Why Heart Cancer is Extremely Rare, According to Experts


A Consultant Haematologist, Dr. Uche Nwokwu, says cancer can start from every single part of the body except the heart.

Nwokwu, a consultant at the National Cancer Control Programme of the Ministry of Health, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Sunday that cancer could start from any part of the body, but while its complications could affect the heart, it can’t start from the heart.

According to online portal Mayo Clinic, most tumors that form in the heart aren’t cancerous. But some heart tumors can be cancerous.

“Cancer that begins in the heart is most often sarcoma, a type of cancer that originates in the soft tissues of the body.

“Heart cancer (malignant primary cardiac tumor) is extremely rare. One study reviewed more than 12,000 autopsies and found only seven people with primary cardiac tumor. At Mayo Clinic, on average only one person with heart cancer is seen each year.

“Although still rare, most cancers found in the heart have come from elsewhere in the body. Cancers that begin near the heart, such as lung cancer and breast cancer, can grow to involve the heart or the lining around the heart (pericardial sac).

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“Or cancer can begin elsewhere in the body and spread to the heart through the bloodstream. Cancers that may affect the heart include lung cancer, breast cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and melanoma, among others,” says Dr. Karthik Giridhar of Mayo Clinic.

Nwokwu, however, advised Nigerians to be conscious of their health and go for cancer screening for early detection of the disease.

He said “if you are having consistent headache, then, you should go and screen for brain tumour; brain cancers are now common, especially with the advent of telecommunication exposure to various forms of radiation.

“Also, cancer of the throat is becoming common, so everybody should be aware that cancer can affect every part of the body.

“If there is ailment from any part of the body, do not take it lightly; we are not saying people should panic but we are saying people should be conscious of their health.”

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The consultant also advised women to do daily breast examination or monthly breast examination and for clinical breast examination screening once in a year.

Nwokwu said it would not be proper to make a policy for women to go for mandatory breast screening, “but we can appeal to them to reduce incidence of late presentation of breast cancer by doing screening.

“The only disease situation where you make certain policy compulsory is infectious diseases that can make others at risk but it will not be fair to make breast screening mandatory.

“Unfortunately, the problem we have in Nigeria’s management of cancer is when it is presented late.

“Many women don’t believe that cancers can be cured medically if presented early, so, they go to prayer houses.

“We are not saying they should not go for payers but they should also access healthcare; awareness is very important that every woman should go for clinical breast examination annually.’’

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The consultant emphasised daily breast examination and clinical examination within the year for early detection and treatment.

He said it was easier for women to appreciate the difference in their breast at any point in time when doing daily examination.

“When there is a change in breast, the woman will know earlier so I recommend breast examination for women daily rather than monthly,’’ he said.

According to him, the fight against cancer is personalised and expect Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisation (NGOs) religious and society leaders and individuals to take the fight against cancer personal.

He added that “do your part as an individual and propagate the message to the public; government at all levels should do their part too to provide necessary facilities for diagnoses and treatment.

“Do your part as religious leader and minister by encouraging and directing patients to the hospital for treatment.

“Traditional rulers should also play their part by discouraging stigmatisation. It is a collective fight. Government cannot do its alone.”



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