Metastatic Brain Tumors

Metastatic Brain Tumors

A metastatic, or secondary, brain tumor is one that begins as cancer in another part of the body. Some of the cancer cells may be carried to the brain by the blood or lymphatic fluid, or may spread from adjacent tissue. The site where the cancerous cells originated is referred to as the primary cancer. Metastatic brain tumors are often referred to as lesions or brain metastases. Metastatic brain tumors are the most common brain tumors. There has been an increase in metastatic lesions as people are surviving primary cancers for longer periods of time.

Characteristics

  • The primary cancer is usually in the lung, breast, colon, kidney, or skin (melanoma), but can originate in any part of the body
  • Most are located in the cerebrum, but can also develop in the cerebellum or brain stem
  • More than half of people with metastatic tumors have multiple lesions (tumors)
  • Common among middle-aged and elderly men and women

Symptoms

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Behavioral and cognitive changes
  • Lack of coordination

Treatment

Surgery and radiosurgery are the standard treatments if lesions are limited in number and accessible. Both of these treatments may be followed by whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT). In cases of multiple lesions, WBRT alone may be given. Chemotherapy specific to the brain-located metastatic tumor may be used.

Learn more about other tumor types.

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