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Metastatic brain tumor
Alternative namesBrain tumor - secondary; Brain tumor - metastatic; Cancer - brain tumor (secondary)
Metastatic brain tumor involves a mass of cancerous cells in the brain that have spread from another part of the body.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Metastatic (secondary) brain tumor occurs when there is a tumor in an area of the body, most commonly the lungs or the breast , and cells from that tumor break off, travel in the bloodstream (metastasize), and lodge in the brain. Other tumors that commonly spread to the brain include melanoma , kidney cancer , and germ cell tumors (such as testicular or ovarian cancers).
Tumors may be localized to a small area, invasive (spread to nearby areas), benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). They can directly destroy brain cells, or they may indirectly damage cells by producing inflammation, compressing other parts of the brain as the tumor grows, inducing cerebral edema (brain swelling), and causing increased intracranial pressure (the pressure within the skull).
Classification of metastatic brain tumors depends on the exact site of the tumor within the brain, type of tissue involved, original location of the tumor, and other factors.
Metastatic brain tumors occur in about one-fourth of all cancers that metastasize (spread through the body). They are much more common than primary brain tumors . They occur in approximately 10-30% of adult cancers.
Signs and testsAn examination reveals focal (localized) or general neurologic changes that are specific to the location of the tumor . Signs of increased intracranial pressure are also common. Some tumors may not show symptoms until they are very large; then they suddenly cause rapid neurologic decline. The original (primary) tumor may already be known, or it may be discovered after examination of tumor tissues from the brain indicates that it is a metastatic type of tumor.
Treatment varies with the size and type of the tumor , the initial site of the tumor and the general health of the person. The goals of treatment may be relief of symptoms, improved functioning, or comfort.
Surgery may be used for metastatic brain tumors when there is a single lesion in some cancers and when there is no cancer elsewhere in the body. Some may be completely excised (removed). Tumors that are deep or that infiltrate brain tissue may be debulked (removal of much of the mass of the tumor to reduce its size).
Surgery may reduce intracranial pressure and relieve symptoms in cases when the tumor cannot be removed. Radiation therapy may be advised for tumors that are sensitive to radiation.
Medications may include the following:
Comfort measures, safety measures, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other interventions may improve the quality of life. Legal advice may be helpful in forming advanced directives, such as power of attorney , in cases where continued physical or intellectual decline is likely.
Support GroupsCounseling, support groups, and similar measures can help people to cope with this disorder. See cancer - support group .
Expectations (prognosis)In general, the probable outcome is fairly poor. Many people with metastatic brain tumors have widespread tumor metastasis. Death often occurs within 2 years.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if new, persistent headaches occur.
PreventionEarly detection and treatment of primary tumors may prevent some metastatic brain tumors.
Update Date: 11/7/2002Ezra E. W. Cohen, M.D., Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT