Brain metastases – messengers from elsewhere
The treatment of tumor metastases in the brain (brain metastases) usually depends on the location, size and number of metastases, as well as the type and stage of the primary tumor. Brain metastases mainly occur in primary tumors in the lung (bronchial carcinoma), breast (breast carcinoma) or black skin cancer (malignant malinoma).
approx. 50 %
of primary tumors come from lung cancer
Likelihood of metastasis following cancer
10 – 20 %
Do not allow conclusion on primary tumor
Source: German Cancer Society
Where can you have brain metastases treated in Munich?
When cancer cells migrate from the primary tumor via the blood or lymphatic system to the brain, settle there and multiply, daughter tumors(metastases) develop. However, unlike the surrounding organ, metastases do not contain the cells of the surrounding brain tissue, but cells of the tissue where the main tumor has formed.
Therefore, the treating doctor, together with our specialists, can conclude the origin of the tumour on the basis of an examination of the tumour – and recommend a sensible, further treatment. Please feel free to contact our radiology specialists in Munich and make an appointment at a location that is easy for you to reach.
How are brain metastases treated?
In addition to the cancer diagnosis, the patient’s general condition is also decisive for treatment of brain metastases. The aim is to alleviate the distressing symptoms, to delay the course of the disease for as long as possible or, at best, to stop it. Therapy may consist of surgery, radiation therapy, and other methods.
Radiation to the brain may be performed in addition to or as an alternative to surgery. Radiation therapy damages degenerate cells so that growth and spread are reduced. Depending on the diagnosis and the stage of the disease, either the entire brain, specific brain areas or a narrowly limited area is irradiated from the outside (percutaneously) in a very targeted manner.
In stereotactic irradiation, individual metastases are irradiated precisely and intensively. Radiosurgery is mainly used for few and small brain metastases, but also for inoperable brain metastases. The advantage of this punctual irradiation is that, in contrast to whole-brain irradiation, the surrounding healthy tissue is largely spared.
Surgery is mainly an option if the metastases are few, large and demarcated, as they can be removed relatively well surgically. However, since the risk of surgical sequelae can be high depending on the location of the metastases, the doctor must weigh up whether an operation makes sense or whether other treatment methods are more suitable for the patient.
Alternative treatment methods
Since some tumor types grow under the influence of hormones (e.g.: breast cancer), hormone-inhibiting therapy may also be effective for brain metastases under certain circumstances. In targeted therapy (e.g. tyrosine kinase inhibitors, immune checkpoint inhibitors), drugs specifically intervene in the metabolic processes of tumor cells, thereby preventing them from spreading in the body. Immunotherapy strengthens the body’s immune system to defend against cancer cells.
What is the treatment process in our practices?
What do you need to pay attention to before, during and after treatment?
Please discuss possible treatment options and consequences with your treating physician. Patients with an artificial bowel outlet in particular have to get used to a change and often feel that their quality of life is restricted. He or she will be happy to provide you with information about possible support options or rehab and follow-up care.
Please make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet and drink enough water. A healthy nutritional status plays an important role in the treatment and spread of the tumor. It also helps reduce the side effects of therapy. Alcohol and smoking are largely prohibited.
What are the side effects of brain metastases treatment?
The brain is a very sensitive organ. In the individual treatment of the primary tumor and brain metastases, the aim is to achieve the most efficient and at the same time gentle therapy possible. Side effects are not a must here!
Operations are always associated with risks. This is especially true for an organ as sensitive as the brain. Therefore, the attending physician, together with the surgeon and the patient, must weigh whether surgery is appropriate or whether an alternative treatment method is more suitable based on the diagnosis. Possible damage to the nerves or brain caused by surgery can have serious consequences for the patient: A loss of motor and sensory performance or cognitive disorders are possible.
Radiation therapy to the head may be accompanied by hair loss, headaches, dizziness and fatigue. During irradiation, we pay particular attention to ensuring that as little healthy tumor tissue as possible is irradiated. We achieve this through techniques such as stereotaxy, in which individual metastases are treated with pinpoint accuracy, or by sparing the hippocampus, which plays an important role in neurocognition.