What is a metastatic brain tumor?

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

What causes a metastatic brain tumor?

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

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Germ cell tumors 
  • Kidney cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma

There are some cancers that seldom spread to the brain, such as colon cancer and prostate cancer, but in rare cases, a tumor can spread to the brain from an unknown location.

Metastatic brain tumor symptoms include:

  • Decreased coordination
  • Fever
  • General ill feeling or fatigue
  • Headache
  • Memory loss, poor judgment, difficulty solving problems
  • Numbness, tingling, pain, and other changes in sensation
  • Personality changes
  • Rapid emotional change or strange behaviors
  • Seizures that are new
  • Problems with speech
  • Vision changes, double vision, decreased vision
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness of a body area

What are the treatments for metastatic brain tumors?

Treatment for a metastatic brain tumor depends on the size and type of tumor, where in the body it has spread, and your overall health. The goals of the treatment may be to relieve symptoms, improve functioning, or provide comfort. Metastatic brain tumor treatment options include:

  • Radiation: This can be used to reduce the size and limit the growth of the metastatic brain tumor. 
  • Surgery: This may be performed when there is a single tumor and the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. 
  • Chemotherapy: This is usually not as helpful for metastatic brain tumors as surgery or radiation; however, some types of tumors respond to chemotherapy.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery: This form of radiation therapy focuses high-power X-rays on a small area of the brain when there are only a few tumors.
  • Palliative care: This is used when the cancer has spread, focusing on relieving pain and other metastatic brain tumor symptoms.