Metastatic brain tumors, also called brain metastases or secondary brain tumors, refer to cancer that begins elsewhere in the body and spreads to the brain. It is estimated that 24–45 percent of all cancer patients in the United States have brain metastases. It is about 10 times more common than primary brain tumors, which start in the brain. The types of cancer that most commonly spread to the brain are lung, breast, melanoma (skin cancer), colon and kidney cancers.
What are metastatic brain tumors?
Metastatic brain tumors are cancerous tumors that spread from cancer in another organ or body part. Brain metastasis can present as a single tumor or multiple tumors. The cancer cells found in the brain tumor are the same type as that found in the primary cancer.
What are the symptoms of metastatic brain tumors?
The symptoms of metastatic brain tumors are often the same as primary brain tumors, which vary depending on where in the brain they are located. Metastatic brain tumors may also cause:
- Cognition difficulties, affecting the ability to think
- Light sensitivity
- Memory issues
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stiff neck
Sometimes, the symptoms of the metastatic tumor present before the symptoms of the primary cancer.
Gamma Knife® treatment for brain metastasis
Gamma Knife treatment provides the least invasive and most effective therapy option for some metastatic brain tumors. Most often, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is one part of a comprehensive cancer treatment plan. Thanks to the highly precise nature of Gamma Knife therapy, it often can be performed without interrupting other cancer treatment or surgery.
Who is a good candidate for Gamma Knife to treat brain metastasis?
Depending on the size and type of metastases you have, Gamma Knife may be a valuable part of your treatment plan. It is a particularly good fit if the tumor or tumors are small (3 cm or less), limited in number and in areas that will impact motor abilities and speech. Gamma Knife is also good for treating tumors that are deep within the brain and not accessible through traditional surgery. It may be used for recurrences or a local boost if you previously had whole-brain radiation.
Can Gamma Knife cure brain metastases?
There is no cure for metastatic cancer, but the Gamma Knife treatment can help control the cancer and can sometimes prolong life for patients being treated for brain metastases. Because there are few side effects, compared with whole brain radiation, it may also improve the quality of life for patients being treated for metastatic cancer.