Learn About Metastatic Brain Tumor

What is the definition of Metastatic Brain Tumor?

A metastatic brain tumor is cancer that started in another part of the body and has spread to the brain.

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What are the alternative names for Metastatic Brain Tumor?

Brain tumor - metastatic (secondary); Cancer - brain tumor (metastatic)

What are the causes of Metastatic Brain Tumor?

Many tumor or cancer types can spread to the brain. The most common are:

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

Some types of cancer rarely spread to the brain, such as prostate cancer. In some cases, a tumor can spread to the brain from an unknown location. This is called cancer of unknown primary (CUP).

Growing brain tumors can place pressure on nearby parts of the brain. Brain swelling due to these tumors also causes increased pressure within the skull.

Brain tumors that spread are classified based on the location of the tumor in the brain, the type of tissue involved, and the original location of the tumor.

Metastatic brain tumors occur in about one fourth (25%) of all cancers that spread through the body. They are much more common than primary brain tumors (tumors that start in the brain).

What are the symptoms of Metastatic Brain Tumor?

Symptoms may include any of the following:

  • Decreased coordination, clumsiness, falls
  • General ill feeling or fatigue
  • Headache, new or more severe than usual
  • Memory loss, poor judgment, difficulty solving problems
  • Numbness, tingling, pain, and other changes in sensation
  • Personality changes
  • Rapid emotional changes or strange behaviors
  • Seizures that are new
  • Problems with speech
  • Vision changes, double vision, decreased vision
  • Vomiting, with or without nausea
  • Weakness of a body area

Specific symptoms vary. Common symptoms of most types of metastatic brain tumors are caused by increased pressure in the brain.

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What are the current treatments for Metastatic Brain Tumor?

Treatment depends on:

  • The size and type of the tumor
  • Location in the body from where it spread
  • The person's general health

The goals of treatment may be to relieve symptoms, improve functioning, or provide comfort.

Whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT) is often used to treat tumors that have spread to the brain, especially if there are many tumors, and surgery is not a good option.

Surgery may be used when there is a single tumor and the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. Some tumors may be completely removed. Tumors that are deep or that extend into brain tissue may be reduced in size (debulked).

Surgery may reduce pressure and relieve symptoms in cases when the tumor cannot be removed.

Chemotherapy for metastatic brain tumors is usually not as helpful as surgery or radiation. Some types of tumors, though, do respond to chemotherapy.

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) may also be used. This form of radiation therapy focuses high-power x-rays on a small area of the brain. It is used when there are only a few metastatic tumors.

Medicines for brain tumor symptoms include:

  • Anticonvulsants such as phenytoin or levetiracetam to reduce or prevent seizures
  • Corticosteroids such as dexamethasone to reduce brain swelling
  • Pain medicines

When the cancer has spread, treatment may focus on relieving pain and other symptoms. This is called palliative or supportive care.

Comfort measures, safety measures, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other treatments may improve the patient's quality of life. Some people may want to seek legal advice to help them create an advance directive and power of attorney for health care.

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What are the support groups for Metastatic Brain Tumor?

You can ease the stress of illness by joining a cancer support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Metastatic Brain Tumor?

For many people with metastatic brain tumors, the cancer is not curable. It will eventually spread to other areas of the body. Prognosis depends on the type of tumor and how it responds to treatment.

What are the possible complications of Metastatic Brain Tumor?

Health problems that may result include:

  • Brain herniation (fatal)
  • Loss of ability to function or care for self
  • Loss of ability to interact
  • Permanent, severe loss of nervous system function that gets worse over time
When should I contact a medical professional for Metastatic Brain Tumor?

Call your health care provider if you develop a persistent headache that is new or different for you.

Call your provider or go to the emergency room if you or someone you know suddenly becomes sluggish or has vision changes, or speech impairment, or has seizures that are new or different.

MRI of the brain
What are the latest Metastatic Brain Tumor Clinical Trials?
Phase II Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Cisplatin With or Without ABT-888 (Veliparib) in Metastatic Triple-Negative Breast Cancer and/or BRCA Mutation-Associated Breast Cancer, With or Without Brain Metastases
Summary: This randomized phase II trial studies how well cisplatin works with or without veliparib in treating patients with triple-negative breast cancer and/or BRCA mutation-associated breast cancer that has come back (recurrent) or has or has not spread to the brain (brain metastases). Drugs used in chemotherapy, such as cisplatin, work in different ways to stop the growth of tumor cells, either by kill...
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A Phase 2 Trial of Pembrolizumab Plus Bevacizumab in Patients With Metastatic Melanoma or Non-small Cell Lung Cancer With Untreated Brain Metastases
Summary: The purpose of this phase 2 trial is to study the activity of pembrolizumab in combination with bevacizumab in patients with untreated brain metastases from melanoma or NSCLC to determine activity and safety of the drug combination. Furthermore, in patients who undergo resection of biopsy of a brain metastasis, we will evaluate biomarkers predictive of treatment benefit, and will also conduct corr...
What are the Latest Advances for Metastatic Brain Tumor?
Primary neuroendocrine carcinoma of the breast with leptomeninges metastasis: A case report and literature review.
Summary: Primary neuroendocrine carcinoma of the breast with leptomeninges metastasis: A case report and literature review.
Surgery for acromegaly: Indications and goals.
Summary: Surgery for acromegaly: Indications and goals.
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A phase I/II study of triple-mutated oncolytic herpes virus G47∆ in patients with progressive glioblastoma.
Summary: A phase I/II study of triple-mutated oncolytic herpes virus G47∆ in patients with progressive glioblastoma.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 25, 2022
Published By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Dorsey JF, Salinas RD, Dang M, et al. Cancer of the central nervous system. In: Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 63.

Elder JB, Nahed BV, Linskey ME, Olson JJ. Congress of Neurological Surgeons systematic review and evidence-based guidelines on the role of emerging and investigational therapies for the treatment of adults with metastatic brain tumors. Neurosurgery. 2019;84(3):E201-E203. PMID: 30629215 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30629215/.

National Cancer Institute website. Adult central nervous system tumors treatment (PDQ) - health professional version. www.cancer.gov/types/brain/hp/adult-brain-treatment-pdq. Updated January 18, 2022. Accessed June 8, 2022.

Olson JJ, Kalkanis SN, Ryken TC. Congress of Neurological Surgeons Systematic Review and Evidence-Based Guidelines for the treatment of adults with metastatic brain tumors: executive summary. Neurosurgery. 2019;84(3):550-552. PMID: 30629218 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30629218/.

Traylor JI, Rao G. Metastatic brain tumors. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 169.