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Brain Metastases

When cancer cells spread from their original site to the brain the brain metastases occur. Any cancer can grow in the brain, but mostly brain metastases causing cancers are lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, kidney cancer, and melanoma.

Brain metastases are also known as secondary brain tumors, occur in 10-30 percent of adults with cancer. As the metastatic brain tumors spread, they apply pressure and that results in a change of the functions of the surrounding brain tissue.

Brain metastases may cause various signs and symptoms.

Medical treatment required for the individuals whose cancer has spread to the brain is often surgery, radiation therapy, or both. In some cases, immunotherapy and chemotherapy may be useful.

Brain metastases

Symptoms

Sign and symptoms of brain tumors vary depending on the tumor’s size, location, number, and rate of growth.

Sign and symptoms of brain metastases include:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Memory loss
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Mental changes

Causes

Brain metastases occur when the cells move throughout the bloodstream or the lymphatic system from the real tumor and spread (metastasize) to the brain. There the cells began to multiply. Metastases cancer that spreads from the original position is known by the name of primary cancer. For example, cancer that spreads from the lung to the brain is called metastatic lung cancer, not brain cancer. 

There are many theses about what causes some cancers to grow and why some cancers travel to the brain. Brain metastases from lung cancer are frequently found in the initial course of the disease, and those from breast cancer develop lately.

Risk factors

Any cancer can spread to the brain, but having one of the following types of cancer can increase the risk of brain metastases:

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Melanoma

Diagnosis

If you are suspected of brain metastases, your doctor may recommend various tests and procedures.

A neurological exam: This includes hearing, checking your vision, balance, coordination, reflexes, and strength. Having difficulty in one or more areas can provide some clues about that part of your brain that could be affected by a brain tumor.

Imaging tests: MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) is commonly used to diagnose brain metastases. A dye (contrast media- Gadolinium) may be injected through a vein in your arm during the MRI examination.

There are a number of specialized MRI scan components that can be used such as functional MRI, perfusion, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, these may help your doctor to evaluate the tumor and plan the treatment. 

Other imaging tests can also be used these include CT (computerized tomography) scan, PET (positron emission tomography). For example, if the primary tumor causing your brain metastases are unknown, you may have a chest scan to look for lung cancer.

Collecting and testing a sample of abnormal tissue (biopsy): A biopsy can be done as part of an operation to remove a brain tumor, or it may be performed using a needle.

After that, a biopsy sample is viewed under a microscope to determine if it is non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) and whether the cells are pituitary tumors or metastatic cancer. 

Treatment

Usually, brain metastases respond to therapy if diagnosed and treated initially. These therapies can help in reducing the symptoms, slow tumor growth, and extend life.

Treatment options for the person who has brain metastases often medication, stereotactic radiosurgery, surgery, whole-brain radiation therapy, or some combination of these. In a few cases, immunotherapy and chemotherapy are useful. Tumors can recur after treatment. 

Your best treatment option will depend on the size, location and number of the tumors, and also signs and symptoms of the tumor. Talk with your doctor about your goals for treatment.

The treatment will depend on the size, number, and location of the tumors, and also sign and symptoms, overall health, and preferences. Consult with your doctor for the best treatment.

Medications

High-dose corticosteroids can be helpful to ease swelling around the tumors and also lower the neurological signs and symptoms.

Surgery

If in case the surgery is an option for you and your brain metastases are occupied the places that make them for an operation, the surgeon will work to remove as much cancer as possible. Removing a part of the tumor may help to reduce the sign and symptoms.

Radiation therapy

In radiation therapy high energy beams are, such as X-rays, gamma rays are used to kill tumor cells. In the case of brain metastases, your treatment will have the involvement of one or both of the following radiation therapy methods.

Whole-brain radiation- In this procedure radiation applied to the entire brain in order to kill the tumor cells. Individuals undergoing this procedure requires 10-15 treatments over 2-3 weeks.

The side effects of whole-brain radiation may include nausea, hair loss, and fatigue. In the long-term whole-brain, radiation is associated with cognitive decline.

Stereotactic radiosurgery- In stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), each beam of radiation is not powerful particularly, but the point where all the beam meets where the brain tumor is present.