Overview

Brain metastases (also called metastatic brain tumor) is caused by cancer cells spreading from other parts of the body as their original site to the brain, such as from the breasts, lungs, kidneys, colon, or skin (melanoma). Brain metastases may consist of one or more tumors located in the brain. As the disease progresses, the tumors grow adding pressure on the nearby brain tissue, altering its function. Headache, personality changes, and seizures are common signs and symptoms occur as a result.
Brain metastases treatment includes surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, a combination of these treatments, as well as other treatments depending on situations. These approaches are to reduce pain and symptoms resulting from the cancer.

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of brain metastases depend on the location, size and aggressiveness of the tumors. Brain metastases may include the following signs and symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • One-sided weakness or numbness of the body
  • Seizures
  • Cognitive problems such as memory problems
  • Mood or behavioral changes

If the signs and symptoms are persistent you should make an appointment with your doctor. It is recommended to tell the doctor about your medical history, especially prior cancer treatment.

Causes

Brain metastases are caused by cancer cells spreading from their original location to the brain, through the bloodstream or the lymph system. After that, they start multiplying in the brain. Brain metastases have many names depending on the original location. For example, cancer originating from the breast is called metastatic breast cancer.

Risk factors

Typically, these types of cancer are the most likely to spread to the brain:

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