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Metastatic brain tumors


Metastatic brain tumors (also known as secondary brain tumors) arise from a cancer from another part of the body and occur in 10 – 30% of cancer patients. These are the most common type of brain tumor occurring 5 – 10 times more commonly than Primary Brain Tumors. In the United States, with over a million new cancer patients diagnosed each year, 100,000 to 300,000 of these people will develop brain metastases. The most frequent types of cancer that metastasize to the brain are lung, breast, melanoma, colon, renal (kidney) and thyroid.


Symptoms of a metastatic tumor or tumors are variable and depend on the location; common complaints include headache, seizures, weakness, numbness, imbalance or in-coordination, confusion and personality changes.


The diagnosis of these tumors is typically made by a brain MRI with and without contrast which will show the exact location and number of metastatic tumors. A CT scan without and with contrast will reliably show the number and location of metastatic brain tumors.


Treatment of metastatic brain tumors may involve surgical removal through a Keyhole Craniotomy, radiosurgery (SRS) or whole brain radiotherapy or chemotherapy. In many instances, all 3 of these treatments are needed. Although the prognosis for patients with a metastatic brain tumor can be poor, treatments are continually improving and there are always new therapies in development.