Brain metastasis (metastatic brain cancer) occurs when cancer starts in another part of the body (e.g., lung, breast, skin) and spreads to the brain. It is the most common type of brain cancer.
If your primary care doctor suspects you have a metastatic brain tumor, you may be referred to a neurologist for testing. The following tests are typically used to help diagnose brain metastases:
Leptomeningeal disease is a type of metastasis. It happens when cancer spreads from its original site to the leptomeninges (membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and cerebrospinal fluid (a liquid found in the brain and spinal cord).
The following tests and procedures are usually used to help diagnose leptomeningeal disease:
Brain metastases and leptomeningeal disease can occur independently or together.
Every case of metastatic brain disease is unique, as is every patient's needs and preferences. The neurosurgeons and cancer specialists at Mass General Brigham will work with you and your family to develop a treatment plan to address your particular situation.
At Mass General Brigham, you will find all of the latest treatments for brain metastases and leptomeningeal disease. Your care team may use one or more of various approaches to give you the best chance at a successful outcome.
Patients with brain metastases have very complex symptoms. Treatment aims to ease your symptoms and to slow or stop tumor growth within the nervous system. Our multidisciplinary team of specialists will meet to plan your treatment, which may include one or more of the following options:
Surgery, in which your neurosurgeon removes as much of the tumor as safely possible
Radiation therapy, which uses high-energy beams (e.g., X-rays) to shrink or kill cancer cells without damaging healthy normal cells around the tumor
Proton beam therapy, an advanced form of radiation treatment that uses a high-energy, focused proton beam to target tumors with incredible precision
Chemotherapy, which uses drugs (given intravenously or orally) to destroy cancer cells in the nervous system and in the body
Immunotherapy, which harnesses the power of your own immune system to find and attack cancer cells
Targeted therapy, a form of personalized medicine in which a drug is chosen based on the specific genetic mutation or alteration found in a tumor's cells
Clinical trials of promising new drugs for brain metastases (more information below)
The primary goal of treatment for leptomeningeal disease is to reduce symptoms and slow tumor growth. You may receive radiation therapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both.
Mass General Brigham is at the forefront of research, including clinical trials, to advance the treatment of leptomeningeal disease.
Meet Mass General Brigham's multidisciplinary team of neurosurgeons and other brain tumor experts.
Through clinical trials available at Mass General Brigham, you may gain access to promising new therapies for metastatic brain disease. Under Dr. Brastianos' leadership, two of the first-ever clinical trials studying leptomeningeal disease treatments took place here. Ongoing trials are analyzing leptomeningeal disease as well as brain metastases.
Each year, thousands of patients from more than 140 countries travel to Mass General Brigham for medical care, second opinions and treatments unavailable anywhere else in the world.
Mass General Brigham is experienced in caring for brain tumor patients who are traveling great distances to our hospitals in Boston. Your cancer team here and our international patient services team will help you prepare for and plan the appropriate amount of time to stay in Boston for your appointments, treatments and any recovery time. During this recovery time in Boston or back home in your country, our clinical team will monitor your well-being and progressions to continuously optimize your treatment plan and symptoms.
Our international patients often have questions about everything from travel and lodging to scheduling appointments. Our International Patient Care Team is here to help. We look forward to making your Mass General Brigham experience as healing and stress-free as possible.
Learn more about our neuro-oncology expertise.