Brain metastases are tumours that originated from a primary cancer elsewhere in the body. Tumour cells spread to the brain through the bloodstream or more rarely via direct invasion system to form secondary tumours termed metastases. Cancers which are most likely to spread to the brain are melanoma, lung, breast, kidney and bowel. Metastatic brain tumours are considered malignant.
Symptoms will vary depending on where the tumour is in the brain; however, there are several symptoms commonly associated with brain metastases including:
- headaches (these may be more severe in the morning or wake you at night);
- nausea and vomiting;
- limb weakness and poor coordination;
- confusion and disorientation;
- personality changes;
- difficulty with speech;
- visual loss and double vision.
Treatment of a metastasis will depend on many factors including:
- the location;
- the type of cancer;
- whether the primary cancer is well-controlled;
- your general health and level of fitness.
Initial diagnosis of a brain tumour is usually by CT or MRI scan. These tests can usually help identify the precise location and size of the tumour as well as indicate the most likely type of tumour. Sometimes further imaging (such as MR spectroscopy or PET scan) is indicated. If you do not have a known primary cancer then further investigation for this may be required e.g. CT body scan. Surgery may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment options for brain metastases includes surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiosurgery and radiotherapy. Steroids are often used to reduce swelling caused by the tumour. Anti-epileptic medication may be used for seizures. There are also clinical trials which you may be eligible for should you wish.