A 32-year-old man who suffered burning chest pains for a decade was found to have what could possibly be the largest heart tumor ever recorded.
Jake Cohen said doctors had dismissed his concerns of chest pains for three years until his blood pressure dropped dangerously low during a stress test.
An emergency MRI revealed that the New Yorker had a tumor the size of a tennis ball in his heart, which doctors think could have been growing since he was born.
Open heart surgery removed the extremely rare heart tumor six months ago and for some of the experienced doctors at Columbia University Medical Center, this was one of the first times they had seen one.
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Jake Cohen, 32, pictured with his wife Jessica said he’s lucky to be a alive after a rare tumor was discovered growing in his heart
Cohen’s tumor was the size of a tennis ball and may be the largest cardiac tumor ever recorded
Cohen told Daily Mail Online that since college he had been experiencing a burning sensation and heaviness in his chest that left him feeling nauseous and out of breath after exercise.
‘I was never able to push myself athletically and run for a long period of time,’ he said.
Doctors visits would end with him going home to take over-the-counter antacid medicine for heart burn.
‘They told me it was heart burn or maybe high-blood pressure and that was it,’ he said.
Six months ago he went for a cardiac stress test where he exercised on a treadmill while his heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure were closely monitored.
After a 12-minute light jog, Cohen’s blood pressure dropped drastically low.
He was rushed to the emergency room at New York Presbyterian Hospital Columbia University Medical Center and after having an MRI, doctors discovered the tumor in his heart.
‘Jake’s tumor is the largest one I have ever seen,’ Dr Yoshifumi Naka, a surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center, told CBS New York.
‘The tumor was inside the tumor capsule and then expanding, expanding, expanding,’ he added.
WHAT IS A HEART TUMOR?
Cardiac tumors are abnormal growths in the heart or heart valves.
The tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).
Tumors that begin growing in the heart and stay there are called primary tumors.
Those that start in another part of the body and move to the heart (metastasize) are secondary tumors.
Most cardiac tumors are benign. But, even benign tumors can cause complications due to their size and location.
Cardiac tumors in general, are rare an 20-year Hong Kong study of 12,000 autopsies only found them in seven bodies.
Cohen had a primary cardiac tumor, meaning that it began growing in his heart.
Primary cardiac tumors are rare, affecting one in 1,000 to 100,000 people.
This is opposed to secondary or metastasized tumors that start in another part of the body and make its way to the heart.
These tumors are 30 to 40 times more common.
Luckily, it was benign, meaning it was not cancerous.
However, doctors said due to its large size it began disrupting Cohen’s heart function.
Open heart surgery removed the massive growth and now Cohen said he feels much better.
‘I’m able to exercise like a normal person my age, lose weight and live a healthy lifestyle,’ he said.
A 20-year study from Hong Kong performed 12,000 consecutive autopsies and found only seven primary tumors in the heart.
Cardiologist Dr Thomas Cosola said in his 17 years of practice, he has only seen two cardiac tumors.
Cohen’s prognosis is positive and doctors said they are optimistic that the tumor will not grow back.
The husband is thankful to be alive and said he feels extremely lucky.
He added: ‘It’s important to advocate for yourself and listen to your own body.’
Cohen took to Facebook and wrote: ‘Today, I feel better than ever and have learned the true meaning of love and compassion.’
Cohen’s MRI shows the tumor as a white mass in his heart that doctors think may have been growing since he was born