Brain metastases, also known as metastatic brain tumors or secondary brain tumors, are malignant (cancerous) tumors that start in another part of the body and spread (metastasize) to the brain. The cells in a metastatic tumor come from the original tumor by breaking away and entering the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.
For example, if lung cancer spreads to the brain, the metastatic tumor in the brain is made up of cancerous lung cells, not brain cells. Although almost any malignancy can spread to the brain, the most common cancers to do so are lung, breast, and melanoma.
Metastatic brain tumors are much more common than primary brain tumors (tumors that originate in the brain). The incidence of brain metastases is related to age, with a lower incidence in children than adults and the greatest incidence in adults in their fifties through their seventies.
Symptoms of metastatic brain tumors may include:
Treatment for brain metastases varies with the size and location of the tumor, the site of the original tumor, and the health of the patient. Surgery and radiation therapy are common treatments.
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