Tumors Metastatic to the Nervous System
What are tumors metastatic to the nervous system?
A tumor that is metastatic to the nervous system is a tumor that began in another part of the body (the primary tumor) and then migrated to the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nervous system. The medical term for this migration is metastasis.
The metastatic tumor usually contains the same type of cancer cells found at the primary cancer site. Many different cancers can metastasize to the nervous system, but the most common are:
- Breast cancers
- Lung cancers
- Skin cancers
Because of improvements in cancer treatments, people are now surviving cancer longer than ever before. However, the primary cancer can continue to exist in the patient. With time, this cancer may recur in the nervous system as a metastatic tumor.
Tumors Metastatic to the Nervous System Symptoms
Depending on the location of the tumor in the nervous system, symptoms may include:
- Balance and gait problems
- Intolerance of bright light
- Involuntary movements
- Loss of intellectual functions such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck stiffness
- Personality or behavior problems
- Speech difficulties
Tumors Metastatic to the Nervous System Treatments
The primary treatments for tumors metastatic to the nervous system are surgery and radiation therapy. Chemotherapy, targeted drug therapy, and stereotactic radiosurgery may also be used and are all offered by the Barrow Brain Tumor Program.
Neuro-Rehabilitation for Tumors Metastatic to the Nervous System
During and after treatment for tumors metastatic to the nervous system, neuro-rehabilitation may help you regain function and independence. Rehabilitation does not reverse brain damage, however, it can help you achieve the best possible long-term outcome.
Rehabilitation can last from one month to more than two years and involves numerous physicians, nurses, and therapists. Learn more about Brain Tumor Rehabilitation at Barrow.
There is no single recipe or “cookbook” approach that works best for everyone with a brain tumor. Every brain tumor is unique, as is each patient. Personalized medicine approaches, such as tumor profiling to look for specific gene mutations, can help determine the best therapies available for you.
Quality of Life Considerations
Brain tumor treatment should be about more than extending life; it should also be focused on optimizing quality of life. Access to a variety of neuro-rehabilitation specialists is important because they can help you maximize your independence and return to a fulfilling life with renewed self-esteem.
At Barrow, we offer a Brain Cancer Survivorship Program to foster relationships between families who have been affected by brain tumors and provide ongoing support.
How common are tumors metastatic to the nervous system
It is estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 people each year will be diagnosed with a tumor that has metastasized to the brain, spinal cord, or peripheral nerves.
Who gets tumors metastatic to the nervous system?
The occurrence of tumors metastatic to the nervous system increases in adults age 45-64. It is highest in adults age 65 or older. Central nervous system metastasis is less common in children, accounting for just six percent of childhood nervous system tumors.
How are tumors metastatic to the nervous system diagnosed?
Your doctor will first perform a neurological exam and request either computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect tumors in the brain, spine, or peripheral system. These images can help your doctor understand the size and number of tumors, the exact location of the tumors, and their potential impact on nearby structures in your brain or body.
Next, your doctor may perform a biopsy, which involves collecting and examining tissue from the tumor to determine the type of cancer and whether it is benign or malignant..
Surgery to remove a brain tumor may be difficult depending on where the tumor is located. Your doctor may instead use a stereotactic needle biopsy to obtain tumor tissue from parts of the brain that are sensitive or hard to reach.
If the tumor was discovered before the primary cancer was found, your doctor may order additional tests to determine where the cancer originated.