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Brain metastases, also called metastatic brain tumors or secondary brain tumors, originate from cancer cells in another part of the body that have spread to the brain from such regions as the lungs or breasts.
Metastatic brain tumors may appear anywhere in the brain, but are most commonly found at the junction of gray matter and white matter.
A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue within the brain or central spin. These tumors can disrupt proper brain function. Brain tumors cause a wide range of health problems, from headaches, to loss of consciousness, and in some cases, death.
The neurosurgical team at UPMC may recommend a combination of surgical and non-surgical approaches for treating brain metastases:
To diagnose brain metastases, your doctor will:
Symptoms may vary, depending on the size and location of the tumor.
Common brain metastases symptoms may include:
In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may request imaging studies such as MRI or CT scans.
Treatments vary, depending on the type and location of your brain tumor.
The three standard treatments are:
Your doctor may recommend one or a combination of these treatments.
Whenever possible, surgeons will remove brain metastases. The type of surgical treatment depends on the size and location of the tumor.
Several minimally invasive surgical options allow UPMC surgeons to access brain metastases that previously were difficult or impossible to reach.
Metastatic tumors in the skull base or upper spine may be approached directly using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA). This state-of-the-art, minimally invasive approach allows surgeons to access the tumor through the natural corridor of the nose, without making an open incision. Surgeons then remove the tumor through the nose and nasal cavities.
EEA offers the benefits of no incisions to heal, no disfigurement, and a faster recovery time. If you need complementary treatments, such as radiation, those therapies can begin soon after EEA surgery.
Neuroendoport® surgery offers a minimally invasive option for tumors within the ventricles (fluid spaces) or deep-seated tumors within the substance of the brain. A narrow tube or port allows surgeons to access these tumors through a tiny incision in the scalp, in contrast to traditional brain surgery.
Radiation is a common treatment for brain metastases, since surgery isn't always an option.
We deliver radiation therapy:
Gamma Knife radiosurgery is a painless procedure that uses hundreds of highly focused radiation beams to target tumors and lesions within the brain, with no surgical incision.
As the nation's leading provider of Gamma Knife procedures, UPMC has treated more than 12,000 patients with tumors, vascular malformations, pain, and other functional problems.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells.
Depending on the type and stage of brain cancer, chemotherapy may be taken by mouth, injected, or placed directly into the brain tumor.
Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA)
Pituitary Tumor Removal Using the Endoscopic Endonasal Approach (EEA) at UPMC
This animation illustrates the removal of a metastasis using the Neuroendoport technique.
Gamma Knife Radiosurgery
Dr. L. Dade Lunsford discusses Gamma Knife Radiosurgery.