How are cardiac angiosarcomas diagnosed?
Diagnosing these rare cancers can be difficult, because the tumors cannot always be seen using common imaging techniques such as CT scans, which are often administered to patients in emergency rooms who complain of shortness of breath, Dr. Mangla said.
During a physical exam, a doctor might, however, be able to hear the sounds of blood rushing around the tumor. They might then conduct an ultrasound of the heart to visualize and identify a tumor, and then follow up with other kinds of imaging, including M.R.I., PET scan or three-dimensional echocardiography.
How do doctors treat cardiac angiosarcoma?
It depends on the patient, but treatment might include surgery to try to remove the heart tumor, or a heart transplant. But sometimes — even in transplant patients — the tumor can reappear.
Generally, if the cancer has not yet spread, it won’t be treated with chemotherapy or radiation. “It’s very rare for us to be able to treat just the heart itself with something like chemotherapy, and you also don’t want to necessarily radiate the heart either, because that will damage it,” Dr. Maki said.
If the cancer has spread, though, a patient might undergo chemotherapy, radiation or treatment with other cancer-fighting drugs that can kill the spreading cancer.
It is unclear whether Mr. Abloh’s cancer had spread, but if he had it for two years, that is certainly possible, Dr. Maki said.
What is the prognosis?
Because cardiac angiosarcomas can damage the heart, which is a vital organ, and because they are aggressive and often spread, these cancers are often fatal.