Wednesday, May 25, 2022

What Happens When Cancer Spreads To The Brain

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What Is The Life Expectancy Of Stage 3 Cancer

Why Cancers Spread to the Brain

According to the American Cancer Society data derived from a database of people diagnosed with lung cancer between 1999 and 2010, the five-year survival rate for stage 3A NSCLC is about 36 percent. For stage 3B cancers the survival rate is about 26 percent. For stage 3C cancers the survival rate is about 1 percent.

Does Brain Cancer Ever Spread To The Lungs

Lung cancer is known to spread to the brain in about 40 percent of cases in which a metastasis has occurred. Metastasis is the medical term used to describe a cancer which has spread beyond the initial tumor to a different, distant organ system. With lung cancer, this is considered stage 4 of the disease.

What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor

If you have metastatic brain tumor, youre already coping with one kind of cancer, and you may wonder what your new diagnosis means. Here are some suggested questions to help you understand your situation:

  • What is a metastatic brain tumor?
  • Why did I develop this tumor or tumors?
  • How will brain metastases affect me?
  • What treatments do you recommend?
  • What are these treatment side effects?
  • Does having brain metastases mean I will have cancer in more areas of my body?
  • What is my prognosis?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If cancer is a journey, learning your cancer has spread to your brain may feel like a huge step into unknown territory. Theres no cure for the different types of metastatic brain tumors. But researchers are making progress toward predicting who may develop brain metastases. Being able to predict who may develop brain metastases means healthcare providers can watch for symptoms that might indicate your cancer has spread to your brain. Early diagnosis and early treatment, including surgery and other treatments, may be another turning point in your cancer journey. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have metastatic brain tumors or wonder if youll develop brain metastases. Theyll help you through this next part of your journey and stay with you every step of the way.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/02/2021.


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How Is Brain Cancer Treated

There are several treatments for brain cancer. Treatment for primary brain cancer will be different from treatment for cancers that have metastasized from other sites.

You may receive one or more treatments depending on the type, size, and location of your brain tumor. Your age and general health are also factors.

Treatments include:

Metastatic Brain Tumor Surgery

Lung cancer spreads to brain and its symptoms

Surgery provides fast relief of mass effect pressure inside the skull resulting from a growing metastatic tumor and swelling of the brain. Some patients may find improvement of symptoms as early as within hours of surgery if mass effect is what is causing your symptoms.

The goal of surgery is to minimize the amount of space the tumor takes up by debulking, which means removing as much of the tumor as possible while maintaining neurological function.

In general, doctors recommend surgery for metastatic brain cancer when:

  • There is a clear link between the symptoms and the tumors location.
  • The primary cancer is treatable and under control.
  • The tumor can be safely removed.

The most common type of surgery to remove metastatic brain tumors is called a craniotomy, which can be performed through a variety of approaches, including the keyhole craniotomy.

Learn more about brain tumor surgery and recovery.

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How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Metastatic Brain Tumors

Your healthcare provider may start the diagnosis process by asking about your symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision and nausea. They may ask how long youve had the symptoms and how your symptoms affect you.

For example, if you have headaches, they may ask if your headaches persist even after youve taken medication. They may ask if your headaches are so intense they interrupt your daily routine or if you wake up with headaches that gradually get better as the day goes on.

If youre being treated for cancer, your healthcare provider will ask about that cancer. Cancer cells dont change during metastasis. For example, if you have breast cancer thats spread to your brain, your healthcare provider may treat the cancer in your brain the same way they treat your breast cancer. Heres the sort of information your healthcare provider will use to diagnose your metastatic brain cancer:

  • What type of cancer you have.
  • When your cancer was diagnosed.
  • Your cancers status, meaning the specific stage and grade.
  • Your current treatment and how your cancer is responding to that treatment.

What Causes Metastatic Brain Tumors

Metastatic brain tumors happen when cells from your existing tumor spread to your brain. Researchers arent sure why some primary cancers are more likely to metastasize. Here are the most common forms of brain metastases:

  • Lung cancer metastasis to your brain. About half of all metastatic brain cancers spread from your lungs.
  • Breast cancer metastasis to your brain. Approximately 10% to 15% of all people with metastatic breast cancer develop brain metastases.
  • Melanoma metastasis to your brain. Melanoma is the third most common form of cancer that spreads to your brain.
  • Prostate cancer metastasis to your brain. Less than 1% of all people with prostate cancer develop metastatic brain tumors.

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Brain Tumor Surgical Options

  • Laser Interstitial Thermal Therapy : When a brain tumor is difficult to reach or remove through open surgery, this relatively new advance in minimally invasive surgery may be an option. It is also the preferred option for recurrent brain metastases and for radiation necrosis, a complication that can occur after radiation treatment. Using MRI to guide the way, a neurosurgeon makes a tiny incision in the scalp and then uses a laser probe to deliver a strong, targeted dose of laser energy directly into the brain tumor. Most patients return home the next day with minimal pain.
  • Awake Craniotomy: In a craniotomy, a piece of skull is removed to access the brain. When a brain tumor is near an area of the brain that controls a vital function, you may need to remain awake during this procedure so that you can communicate with your surgeon.

Nicotine Plays A Dirty Trick

When Cancer Spreads to the Brain

Cancer biologist Kounosuke Watabe at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, thinks that metastatic brain tumours in lung cancer can be linked to whatever causes the disease in the first place, which for most patients is smoking. Cigarettes are responsible for more than 70% of lung cancer cases. Watabe and colleagues6 examined data from nearly 300 people with lung cancer and found that tumours in the brain are more likely in those who smoke.

This is not a particularly surprising finding scientists have long known that tobacco contains cancer-causing compounds. But Watabe then turned his attention to the more innocuous nicotine. Nicotine is not a carcinogen per se, but it goes to the brain, and thats why people get addicted, he says. Giving nicotine to mice genetically engineered to be prone to lung cancer saw them develop more brain tumours than did a control group.

One hopeful finding is a compound that could block nicotines effect on the brains microglia cells. Parthenolide, a naturally occurring substance found in a herb called feverfew, which is often marketed as a migraine remedy, seems to inhibit the tumour-promoting transformation in mice. But it is impossible to say whether it would do the same for humans until clinical trials confirm these initial animal findings. This will be the next step for Watabes research.

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Can Prostate Cancer Spread To The Brain

Cancer that grows originally in another part of the body and then spreads to the brain is called as metastatic brain cancerous tumor. Prostate cancer can spread to distinct organs, too. But can it spread to the brain?

Common cancers that affects the brain

Cancer from other sites of the body that spread to the brain is called secondary brain cancer or brain metastases. This kind of brain cancer is far more common than primary brain cancer , cancerous cells that start and grow originally in the brain.

And there are many malignant cancerous cells from another part of the body that can affect the brain. But the most common types are cancers of

  • bladder
  • melanoma
  • germ cell tumors
  • and some sarcomas
  • About 25 percent of all cases of cancer that spread through the body lead to brain metastases. This suggests that it occurs about 10-30 percent of cancers in adults. Thats why it is much more common than PBC, as noted before.

    Brain metastases are commonly classified by the following factors:

  • The location of cancerous tumor in the brain and how large it is!
  • The affected tissues in the brain.
  • The original location of where the cancer comes from. In rare cases, this original location is unknown or difficult to be identified.
  • And other factors.
  • Symptoms

    The cancerous tumor that grows inside the brain can be large enough which then may eventually cause pressure on the nearby tissues /parts of the brain, causing swelling and increasing pressure within the skull.

  • Surgery.
  • Clinical Trials For New Treatments

    Researchers are always finding new ways to treat metastatic brain tumors. These new methods are tested in clinical trials. Talk with your health care provider to find out if there are any clinical trials you should consider.

    Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Brain Tumor Center

    Every metastatic brain tumor, and every patient, is different. The specialists at Johns Hopkins take the time to determine which treatment or combination of treatments will be the most effective for you.

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    Breast Cancer That Has Spread To The Brain

    This is known as secondary breast cancer in the brain. It can also be called brain metastases or brain mets.

    Its not the same as having cancer that starts in the brain. The cancer cells that have spread to the brain are breast cancer cells.

    For most people with secondary breast cancer in the brain, breast cancer has already spread to another part of the body such as the bones, liver or lungs.

    For some people, the brain may be the only area of secondary breast cancer.

    What Are Four Grades Of Brain Cancers

    Lung cancer spreads to brain and its symptoms

    Not all brain tumors are alike, even if they arise from the same type of brain tissue. Tumors are assigned a grade depending on how the cells in the tumor appear microscopically. The grade also provides insight as to the cell’s growth rate. NCI lists the following grades from benign to most aggressive :

    • Grade I: The tissue is benign. The cells look nearly like normal brain cells, and they grow slowly.
    • Grade II: The tissue is malignant. The cells look less like normal cells than do the cells in a grade I tumor.
    • Grade III: The malignant tissue has cells that look very different from normal cells. The abnormal cells are actively growing and have a distinctly abnormal appearance .
    • Grade IV: The malignant tissue has cells that look most abnormal and tend to grow quickly.

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    What Is The Treatment For Brain Cancer

    A treatment plan is individualized for each brain cancer patient. The treatment plan is constructed by the doctors who specialize in brain cancer, and treatments vary widely depending on the cancer type, brain location, tumor size, patient age, and the patient’s general health status. A major part of the plan is also determined by the patient’s wishes. Patients should discuss treatment options with their health care providers.

    Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are the major treatment categories for most brain cancers. Individual treatment plans often include a combination of these treatments. Surgical therapy attempts to remove all of the tumor cells by cutting the tumor away from normal brain tissue. This surgery that involves opening the skull is often termed invasive surgery to distinguish it from noninvasive radiosurgery or radiation therapy described below. Some brain cancers are termed inoperable by surgeons because attempting to remove the cancer may cause further brain damage or death. However, a brain cancer termed inoperable by one surgeon may be considered operable by another surgeon. Patients with a diagnosis of an inoperable brain tumor should consider seeking a second opinion before surgical treatment is abandoned.

    Other treatment options may include hyperthermia , immunotherapy , or steroids to reduce inflammation and brain swelling. These may be added on to other treatment plans.

    What You Need To Know

    • Metastatic brain cancer is caused by cancer cells spreading to the brain from a different part of the body.
    • The most common types of cancer that can spread to the brain are cancers of the lung, breast, skin , colon, kidney and thyroid gland.
    • Metastatic brain tumors are five times more common than primary brain tumors .
    • Metastatic brain tumors can grow rapidly, crowding or destroying nearby brain tissue. Sometimes a patient may have multiple metastatic tumors in different areas of the brain.

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    Immunotherapy For Metastatic Brain Tumors

    Cancer immunotherapy is a fast-growing field of research that seeks to develop drugs, vaccines and other therapies that trigger the immune systems natural abilities to fight cancer. Many immunotherapy drugs for metastatic brain tumors act as checkpoint inhibitors. Normally, tumor cells can evade attack by activating certain proteins that disarm your immune system. Checkpoint inhibitors prevent tumor cells from exploiting this process.

    Immunotherapy drugs to treat metastatic brain tumors include:

    • Atezolizumab
    • Nivolumab

    Causes And Risk Factors For Brain Cancer

    Jennifer Sabounchi: Lung Cancer that spread to the brain.

    The exact cause of brain cancer is unknown. However, factors that can increase your risk of brain cancer include exposure to high doses of ionizing radiation and a family history of brain cancer.

    Cancer in another part of your body is also a risk factor for developing a tumor in the brain, though these arent called brain cancer. They are cancers that have spread to the brain.

    Cancers that commonly spread, or metastasize, to the brain include:

    • melanoma, which is a type of skin cancer

    Other factors that might be related to developing brain cancer include:

    • increased age
    • long-term smoking
    • exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizer
    • working with elements that can cause cancer, such as lead, plastic, rubber, petroleum, and some textiles

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    How Long Does It Take For My Primary Tumor To Spread To My Brain

    Brain metastases happen when cells from your primary tumor spread to your brain. Cancer cells travel via your blood or lymphatic system. Its difficult to pinpoint how long that journey takes. Just like taking the freeway to your destination might be faster than taking side roads, cancer cells that have easy access to your blood or lymphatic system can spread more quickly than cells that dont have that access.

    What Is Recovery Like

    Even if they come in with neurological problems due to their brain metastases, many patients today make full recoveries – especially if their metastases are caught early.

    “It’s nice to be able to offer relief and say that, in fact, the cancer in the brain is really not the determinant of a patient’s survival,” says Dr. Chiang.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Advanced Thyroid Cancer

    Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Cancer A lump in the neck, sometimes growing quickly. Swelling in the neck. Pain in the front of the neck, sometimes going up to the ears. Hoarseness or other voice changes that do not go away. Trouble swallowing. Trouble breathing. A constant cough that is not due to a cold.

    Are There Any Home Remedies For Brain Cancer

    When cancer spreads to the brain

    There are many home remedies that make claims of being effective in treating brain cancer . Most are nutrition or supplements like herbs, fish oils, chokeberry, and many others. Most have little or no research data to support their claims. Before using such compounds, discuss their use with your doctors.

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    When Metastatic Cancer Can No Longer Be Controlled

    If you have been told your cancer can no longer be controlled, you and your loved ones may want to discuss end-of-life care. Whether or not you choose to continue treatment to shrink the cancer or control its growth, you can always receive palliative care to control the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment. Information on coping with and planning for end-of-life care is available in the Advanced Cancer section of this site.

    Chemotherapy For Metastatic Brain Tumors

    Because traditional chemotherapy cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, newer treatments called targeted therapy are used as the primary type of chemotherapy for treating metastatic brain tumors.

    These drugs identify and attack cancer cells with minimal harm to normal cells while preventing the growth and spread of cancer cells. Targeted therapy can be administered after surgery or in conjunction with radiation therapy to destroy remaining cancer cells.

    Targeted therapies used to treat metastatic brain tumors include:

    • Trastuzumab for breast cancer that has spread to the brain
    • Erlotinib for the most common type of lung cancer that has spread to the brain

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    Treatment For Brain Metastasis

    Metastatic breast cancer in any part of the body is usually treated with systemic medicines, which treat cancer throughout the entire body. For brain metastasis, local treatments that specifically target the brain, such as surgery or radiation, are sometimes recommended.

    Still, treating brain metastases can be challenging because of the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is network of blood vessels and tissue that helps keep harmful substances from reaching the brain. The blood-brain barrier lets some things, such as water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and general anesthetics, pass into the brain. But it also keeps out bacteria and other substances, including many medicines used to treat cancer.

    While some chemotherapy medicines can help treat brain metastases, many chemotherapy medicines can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. Doctors often combine chemotherapy with targeted therapies, which are medicines that target specific characteristics of cancer cells.

    Hormonal therapy medicines also called endocrine therapy or anti-estrogen therapy are used to help shrink or slow the growth of hormone receptor-positive metastatic breast cancer. Hormonal therapy medicines include:

      Learn more about Hormonal Therapy.

      The targeted therapy Tukysa in combination with the targeted therapy Herceptin and the chemotherapy Xeloda has been shown to be especially effective in treating HER2-positive breast cancer that has metastasized to the brain.

      Learn more about Targeted Therapies.

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