Brain metastases are a condition that can be a very scary and uncertain diagnosis for a patient and their loved ones. If you or someone you care about has recently been diagnosed, understand that the medical community has new and effective treatment methods for brain metastases available. With advanced medical attention, people with brain metastases can survive longer and enjoy a better quality of life than ever before.
Brain Metastases Basics
Brain metastases come from cancer that originated in other parts of the body. Cancer cells break off from the primary tumor and travel throughout the body via the blood or lymphatic system and grow into new tumors. While any systemic cancer can metastasize, certain types are more likely to do so. Lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma, colon cancer and renal cancer sometimes cause brain metastases. In fact, around 200,000 cancer patients are diagnosed with this condition each year.
If you have brain metastases, you do not necessarily have brain cancer. Instead, the cancer is named after its organ of origin. For instance, you might have kidney cancer that has metastasized to the brain, which the medical community considers stage 4 or advanced cancer. As dire as that might sound, you can find effective medical help.
Non-Invasive Treatment Methods for Brain Metastases
Your physician will take various factors into consideration before recommending a treatment. They will look at the type of primary cancer you have and your overall health, the location and number of tumors, the genetic makeup of the tumors, your treatment history and other aspects of your cancer.
Radiation Therapy/Gamma Knife
Treatment methods for brain metastases can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies, but some type of radiation is almost always employed. You may have brain surgery to remove as many of the tumors as possible followed by radiation to kill the remaining cancer cells. In the past, doctors often used whole-brain radiation for this purpose, but this treatment has many negative side-effects, including permanent cognitive issues.
Your doctor may decide that surgery is not indicated for you and have you undergo targeted radiation therapy, alone or combined with medication. Currently, Gamma Knife radiosurgery is one of the preferred, non-invasive treatment methods. This treatment focuses 192 radiation beams at the tumor, bombarding it with an extensive amount of precisely targeted radiation so that the cancer cells are killed while protecting the surrounding healthy tissue. Even people with multiple lesions have seen significant improvement after receiving this radiation. The side effects are usually mild and recovery time short.
Your doctor might also order chemotherapy to treat cancerous cells. Patients may take this medication orally, through an IV or via a wafer implanted in their brain. Some targeted therapy medications may help stop or slow progression of your cancer as well.
Your medical team will design and recommend a customized plan for your condition. Every patient is unique and should have a say in how their doctors treat their illness.
Choosing Your Next Steps
When you have brain metastases, you should consult with knowledgeable medical professionals to determine the best treatment path for your situation. If you would like to learn more about Gamma Knife radiosurgery as a treatment option for you, contact The Valley Gamma Knife Center and a Nurse Navigator will be glad to speak to you about possible next steps.