Brain Tumor and Spinal Tumor Program

Brain Metastases

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What do I have?

Brain metastases are lesions in the brain that have spread from a cancer originating elsewhere in the body.

What does it do?

Brain metastases can cause general neurologic symptoms such as headache, nausea, vomiting (with or without associated nausea) and seizure, as well as symptoms specific to the region of the brain where they are located. These symptoms arise from the growth of the lesion as well as from swelling around the lesion.

How long have I had it?

Unfortunately, there is no accurate means to determine how long a patient has had brain metastases. In some patients, brain metastases may have grown over the course of many months or years, but be too small to be seen on previous MRI or CT scans.

Can it be cured?

Historically brain metastases have been considered incurable. However, recent studies suggest that with aggressive therapy, including surgical resection and/or stereotactic radiosurgery, some patients with one (or only a few) brain metastases may have a chance for cure. In patients with many brain metastases, a chance for cure is unfortunately unlikely. However, brain metastases can be controlled, either temporarily or indefinitely, with treatments such as surgical resection, stereotactic radiosurgery, fractionated radiation and chemotherapy. The goal of these treatments is to control (stop or slow down the growth of the brain metastases and prevent or slow down the growth of new brain metastases). Treatments for brain metastases can provide several months, and perhaps years, of remission and better quality of life by keeping the brain metastases controlled during those times.

What caused it?

Brain metastases are caused from a cancer cell escaping from the original cancerous tumor, depositing and growing in the brain. The reason why cancer cells in some patients have the ability to accomplish these steps is not known. This question is actively being investigated at universities worldwide, including the University of Rochester.


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Condition Facts

  • Most commonly arise from lung, breast, renal cancers and Melanoma.
  • Can present with multiple or single tumors.

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