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. One or more tumors, or brain metastases, then develop.

In recent years, the incidence of metastatic brain cancer has increased as people live longer due to advanced treatments for primary cancer. People with certain stage four cancers face the risk that cancer could spread to the brain.

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

How metastatic brain cancer forms

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

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

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

Henry Ford leads the way on metastatic brain cancer treatment

The Hermelin Brain Tumor Center offers a dedicated program for cancer that has metastasized to the brain, spine or cerebrospinal fluid. Although metastatic brain and spinal tumors have a reputation for resisting treatment, new therapy options have provided hope

Our program led the development of comprehensive national guidelines for metastatic brain tumor treatment:

  • The guidelines were developed in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of experts in neurosurgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology and neuro-oncology from around the country.
  • 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.
  • The metastatic brain cancer treatment guidelines were first implemented with Henry Ford patients.

Advanced treatment options for metastatic brain tumors

Henry Ford metastatic brain tumor specialists have extensive experience treating complex cases and offer the latest treatment options, including:

  • Radiosurgery: For multiple brain tumors that can’t be surgically removed, non-invasive radiosurgery with precise radiation may provide an option. Henry Ford was the first program in the United States to offer the EDGE® system, the most advanced radiosurgery treatment available. The Hermelin Brain Tumor Center participates in a national study evaluating the effectiveness of this technique with or without whole-brain radiation therapy. Learn more about radiation for brain tumors.
  • Radiation-enhancing drugs: Henry Ford investigators are exploring the use of novel drugs to increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy. They hope to improve outcomes and quality of life for patients with multiple metastatic brain tumors.
  • Metastatic brain tumor clinical trials: Our neuro-oncologists are active in collaborative research that explores the mechanisms of metastatic brain cancer growth. This research helps give us a better understanding of how metastatic brain tumors grow, knowledge used to develop new treatment options. Learn more about brain cancer clinical trials.

Side effects of metastatic brain cancer treatment

You may be concerned about how metastatic brain cancer treatment will impact your body. With any treatment, there is the potential for side effects, which can vary by therapy.

Your Hermelin Brain Tumor Center team 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.

24 hour appointment guarantee
Call us at (888) 777-4167

Schedule Appointment Online

If you are having an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Please do not utilize this scheduling feature for urgent medical situations.

For your safety please select a MyChart Video Visit on Demand or call our MyCare Advice Line at 844-262-1949 before scheduling if: You currently have a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, you are experiencing a new loss of taste and/or sense of smell, in the past 21 days, you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, in the past 14 days, you have had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. Or, you have experienced two or more of the following symptoms in the last 3 days: fever, chills, drenching sweats, new cough, shortness of breath, body aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose or nasal congestion, or nausea/vomiting/diarrhea.

Henry Ford Health System is committed to ensuring our Deaf or hard-of-hearing patients and visitors have equal access to all services. We provide the appropriate auxiliary aids and services, including qualified sign language interpreters, TTYs and other assistive listening devices, at no cost. To request assistance, call 313-916-1896 or email

Schedule Appointment for