Disease: Brain metastases


    Brain metastases occur when cancer cells spread from their original site to the brain. Any cancer can spread to the brain, but the types most likely to cause brain metastases are lung, breast, colon, kidney and melanoma.

    Brain metastases, or secondary brain tumors, occur in 10 to 30 percent of adults with cancer. As the metastatic brain tumors grow, they create pressure on and change the function of surrounding brain tissue. Brain metastases can cause many signs and symptoms.

    Treatment for people whose cancer has spread to the brain is often surgery, radiation therapy or both. In some cases, chemotherapy and immunotherapy are helpful. Treatment is often focused on reducing pain and symptoms resulting from the cancer.

    Brain metastases care at Mayo Clinic

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Brain tumor symptoms vary depending on the tumors' size, number, location and rate of growth.

    Signs and symptoms of brain metastases include:

    • Headache, sometimes with vomiting or nausea
    • Mental changes, such as increasing memory problems
    • Seizures
    • Dizziness

    When to see a doctor

    Make an appointment with your doctor if you have persistent signs and symptoms that concern you. If you've been treated for cancer in the past, tell your doctor about your medical history.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Brain metastases occur when cancer cells travel through the bloodstream or the lymph system from the original tumor and spread (metastasize) to the brain. There they begin to multiply. Metastatic cancer that spreads from its original location is known by the name of the primary cancer. For example, cancer that has spread from the breast to the brain is called metastatic breast cancer, not brain cancer.

    There are many theories about what causes some cancers to spread and why some cancers travel to the brain. Brain metastases from lung cancer are often found early in the course of the disease, and those from breast cancer develop late.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    If it's suspected that you have brain metastases, your doctor may recommend a number of tests and procedures.

    • A neurological exam. A neurological exam may include, among other things, checking your vision, hearing, balance, coordination, strength and reflexes. Difficulty in one or more areas may provide clues about the part of your brain that could be affected by a brain tumor.
    • Imaging tests. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to help diagnose brain metastases. A dye may be injected through a vein in your arm during your MRI study.

      A number of specialized MRI scan components — including functional MRI, perfusion MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy — may help your doctor evaluate the tumor and plan treatment.

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

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

      The biopsy sample is then viewed under a microscope to determine if it is cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) and whether the cells are metastatic cancer or from a primary tumor. This information is critical to establish a diagnosis and a prognosis and to guide treatment.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Coping and support

    Coping with brain metastasis requires more than enduring your symptoms. It also involves coming to terms with the news that your cancer has spread beyond its original site.

    Cancer that has spread can be very difficult to cure. People with a single brain metastasis who undergo effective treatment have a better chance for long-term survival than do people with multiple metastatic tumors. Your doctor will work to minimize your pain and to maintain your function so that you can continue your daily activities.

    Each person finds his or her own way to cope with a cancer diagnosis. Until you find what works best for you, consider trying to:

    • Find out enough about brain metastasis to make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor about the details of your cancer and your treatment options. Ask about trusted sources of further information. If you do research on your own, good places to start include the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.
    • Be aware of potential limits on driving. Talk with your doctor about whether it's OK for you to drive, if that is something you regularly do. Your decision may depend on whether your neurological exam shows that your judgment and reflexes haven't been affected too much.
    • Express your feelings. Find an activity that allows you to write about or discuss your emotions, such as writing in a journal, talking to a friend or counselor, or participating in a support group. Contact your local chapter of the American Cancer Society to find cancer support groups in your area.
    • Come to terms with your illness. If treatment isn't helping to control your brain metastases, you and your family may want to talk with your doctor about end-of-life care options, such as hospice.

    Coming to terms with the fact that your cancer may no longer be curable can be difficult. For some people, having a strong faith or a sense of something greater than themselves makes this process easier.

    Others seek counseling from someone who understands life-threatening illnesses, such as a medical social worker, a psychologist or a chaplain. Many people also take steps to ensure that their end-of-life wishes are known and respected by writing down their wishes and discussing them with their loved ones.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Risk factors

    Any type of cancer can spread to the brain, but having one of the following types of cancer puts you at increased risk of brain metastases:

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

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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