Metastatic Brain Tumors
A tumor, or neoplasm, is a mass of abnormal cells that grows at an uncontrolled pace, crowding out and destroying normal tissue. Metastatic brain tumors are malignant growths that are formed by cancer cells originating in a different region or organ in the body. Cancers of the lung, breast, skin, and kidneys are the most common cause of metastatic brain tumors.
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Symptoms and Diagnosis
The symptoms of a metastatic brain tumor depend on its location and size. As brain tumors grow, depending on their location, they can disrupt sensory, motor, cognitive, balance or other functions, cause hydrocephalus, and or locally increase pressure within the brain.
- Symptoms associated with the tumor’s growth may include headache, facial numbness, double vision, and difficulty with speech, swallowing, sensation, movement, language, or balance. Seizures are common.
- Metastatic brain tumors are typically diagnosed using imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Depending on the patient’s overall health, the number of metastatic tumors, and their location and size, malignant brain tumors may be treated with one or a combination of techniques. Traditional surgery is preferred when a symptomatic or large solitary tumor can be completely removed without causing neurological damage. Gamma knife radiosurgery uses a single, high dose of radiation to stop a metastatic tumor from growing, and is very effective in controlling individual small metastatic tumors. Whole brain radiation is often used if multiple metastatic brain tumors are present or to prevent tumor recurrence following surgical resection or radiosurgical treatment of metastatic disease. Systemic chemotherapy and immunotherapy use medications to kill cancer cells and enlist the body’s immune system in fighting the disease. Their efficacy in brain metastatic disease is variable.