When cancers cells spread from their original site elsewhere in the body to the brain, it is known as brain metastases. Any type of cancer can possibly spread to the brain. But the types that most commonly present with the brain metastases are lung cancer, breast cancer, colon and kidney cancers and melanoma as well. Brain metastases is also known as secondary brain tumor. As these tumors grow, they exert a pressure on the surrounding brain tissue and alter the function of the surrounding tissue. Brain metastases presents with many different signs and symptoms.
How Is Brain Metastases Diagnosed?
Upon suspecting you for brain metastases, your doctor may recommend carrying out a few diagnostic tests and procedures. These procedures and tests may include the following-
A Neurological Examination– A neurological examination involves checking of vision, hearing, co-ordination, balancing, strength and reflexes, among many other things. If you face a difficulty in one or many of these functions, it may be indicative of a presence of brain metastases. The functions in which you have problems, may also indicate which part of the brain may be affected by the tumor.
Imaging Tests– MRI also known as magnetic resonance imaging is the most frequently used test for the diagnosis of brain metastases. The procedure may involve injecting a dye in your arm through a vein during the MRI study. Specialized MRI scan components like functional MRI, perfusion MRI and magnetic resonance spectroscopy may be helpful in evaluating the brain tumor and decide on the course of treatment accordingly.
Some other tests like CT scan also known as computerized tomography and PET scan also known as positron emission tomography can be done for the diagnosis of brain metastases. For an instance, if the location of the primary tumor that is responsible for causing brain metastases is not known, a CT scan of chest possibly can be taken to look for the presence of lung cancer, and likewise.
Biopsy– A biopsy is a term used to define the collecting and testing of a sample of abnormal tissue. A biopsy can be performed in two different ways- it can be carried out as a part of a surgery which is done to take out the tumor or it can be carried out with the help of a needle.
The sample that is thus obtained is then sent for the pathological examination under a microscope. This can determine if the tumor is malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). This can also help in deciding whether the cells that are examined are related to a brain metastases cancer or a primary tumor. This fact is essential for making a diagnosis and providing a prognosis of the condition. It is also essential for deciding course of the treatment.
Treatment Of Brain Metastases
As in any other cancers or tumors, early diagnosis and an efficient treatment is of prime importance in deciding the prognosis of the condition. If diagnosed at the earliest and in the presence of an efficient treatment, brain metastases can usually respond to the treatment. The treatment can help in reducing the symptoms, slow down the growth of the tumor and increase the lifespan.
People with brain metastases usually have options like medications, surgery, radiosurgery, whole-brain radiation therapy, in single or in combination of any of these.
Chemotherapy and immunotherapy are found to be useful in some cases of brain metastases. The treatment will largely depend on the signs and symptoms, stage at which the condition has been diagnosed, the extent of the spread of the disease and age and general health of the patient. It will also depend upon the size and the number of tumors present. Prognosis may vary from person to person accordingly.
With a prompt and efficient diagnosis and treatment, the progression of brain metastases can be slowed, and the lifespan of the person can be increased.