Brain cancer persists as one of the most elusive and deadliest forms of cancer in the medical community. Innovations in treatment and detection have been slow in arriving over the past couple of decades, leading to a grim prognosis for people with this disease. Metastatic tumors are the most common types of brain tumors. These are tumors that originate in another part of the body but spread to the brain. Although seemingly rare in previous generations, the incidences of metastatic brain tumors appear to have risen over the past couple of decades.
The most common source of brain metastases in males is from the lung, while in women it is the breast. With the rise of lung cancer rates in women, the incidence of metastases from the lungs is on the rise in females. Metastatic brain cancer is thought to travel directly from the lungs. Since the brain has no lymphatic system, the cancer is transmitted through the bloodstream. Because blood passes through the lungs then to the brain, the affected cancer cells are filtered out in the capillaries and then embolize to the brain.
Secondary brain cancer causes symptoms similar to other forms of cancer of the brain. The tumors, once present, press against the soft tissue of the brain creating cranial pressure, which causes a vast number of varying symptoms dependent upon location of the tumor. Symptoms of the cranial pressure increase and may include headaches, vision problems, auditory distortions, confusion, seizures, neurological deficits and pain and weakness in the extremities.
The treatment for this condition is dependent upon the size and the location of the tumor, and on the specific type of metastatic tumor involved. Sometimes surgery is an option, however, it is rarely, if ever, a cure. Surgery is intended to relieve the symptoms that occur from the cranial pressure. In most cases, the tumor cannot be completely removed. Radiation is an option as well, thanks to advances in targeted radiation such as Gamma knife. Radiology, however, can be risky depending on the site as it can damage the tissue around the cancer and cause swelling, which will only further exasperate the pressure produced by the tumor itself. At present, there is no cure for this condition.