Metastatic Brain Cancer Treatment

Metastatic brain cancer is also known as secondary brain cancer. It occurs when cancer forms in another part of the body – the primary tumor site – and spreads to the brain through the bloodstream. One or more tumors, or brain metastases, then develop in the brain.

In recent years, the incidence of metastatic brain cancer has increased. This is because people are living longer thanks to more effective treatments for primary cancer. The exact incidence of metastatic brain tumors is not known, but is estimated that 20 to 40% of patients with cancer will develop brain or spinal metastasis.

Learn more about brain tumor types, including the difference between primary and secondary tumors.

Here at Henry Ford, our Hermelin Brain Tumor Center offers a dedicated program for those who have cancer that has metastasized to the brain, spine or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a fluid made in the brain that circulates around the brain and spine. These tumors have been difficult to treat in the past, but new therapy options are providing hope.

How metastatic brain cancer forms

Regardless of where a primary cancerous tumor originates, tumor cells can break off and travel through the bloodstream to other areas of the body, including the brain or spine.

While many types of primary cancer can form brain and/or spine metastases, the most common include:

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

Leading the way on metastatic brain cancer treatment

The Hermelin Brain Tumor Center has a multidisciplinary brain and spinal tumor board that creates a personalized treatment plan for each patient. Each patient’s tumor is screened to find the targeted drugs that will work best for them, and all patients are considered for novel surgical and/or radiation techniques and clinical trials.

Members of our brain metastasis program led the development of the first evidence-based, multidisciplinary national guidelines for metastatic brain tumor treatment.

  • The guidelines were developed in collaboration with a nationwide team of experts in neurosurgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and neuro-oncology.
  • Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stereotactic radiosurgery and novel drug therapies, as well as combinations of these treatments.
  • Recommended treatment options have been adopted by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, two of the largest organizations in neurosurgery.

Advanced treatment options for metastatic brain tumors

We want to ensure the best possible outcome and optimal quality of life for our patients. As part of your personalized treatment plan, your metastatic brain tumor specialist may suggest one or more of the following treatment options:

Metastatic Cancer: A Scary Diagnosis

Diane was shocked to learn she had lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain. She was feeling a little unsteady and passed out while eating lunch one day. The next day, Henry Ford surgeons removed a golf-ball sized tumor from her brain, and she would find a highly experienced medical team that offered her hope.

Learn Diane's story

Side effects of metastatic cancer treatment

You may be concerned about how metastatic cancer treatment will impact you. Our treatments are tailored to reduce the potential side effects of radiation on the brain. If you have side effects such as memory impairment or radiation necrosis we have a team of specialists that can evaluate your issues and offer a personalized treatment plan. Maintaining quality of life is an essential aspect of our treatments.

Your team of experts will review your personalized treatment plan with you and discuss possible side effects before treatment begins. We want you to make informed decisions about your care.

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