Metastasis Center

What Is Metastatic Cancer?

Cancer can spread from where it started to other parts of the body through the:

  • Blood system, through the arteries and veins
  • Lymphatic system, which filters infectious agents in the body
  • Cerebrospinal fluid, the clear fluid that surrounds and protects the brain and spine

Metastatic brain and spine tumors (also called secondary brain or spine tumors) occur when cancer cells spread to the brain or spine from a tumor in a different part of the body (primary tumor). The cancer cells that spread to the brain or spine then form a tumor or tumors. Metastatic brain tumors are much more common than primary brain tumors, which originate in the brain.

Metastatic brain and spine tumors can develop a long time after the primary cancer, or can spread so quickly that they are diagnosed before a primary cancer is found. Cancers that often result in metastatic brain and spine tumors include breast, colon, kidney, lung, skin, thyroid, and lymphatic cancers.

Treatment Options for Metastatic Brain Tumors

Lifespan provides comprehensive care to patients diagnosed with metastatic brain or spine tumors. We offer surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to treat brain and spine metastases, but also provide access to holistic services that help treat the neurologic consequences of metastatic disease.

Our nationally recognized specialists include neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, and neuro-oncologists, who work with nurse practitioners, nurse navigators, and social workers in a multidisciplinary, team-based approach to treatment. Each week the team meets in a tumor board to discuss each patient’s condition and treatment plan. We discuss the treatment and symptom management with the patient and family.

Because the number, size and location of metastatic brain or spine tumors can vary greatly in patients, treatment is very specific to the patient. Surgery is often very successful when a patient has a single or clustered multiple tumors that can be safely removed without damage to healthy tissue, and is often necessary when the tumor mass itself is causing symptoms. Targeted radiation therapy is also a common treatment for this delicate area.

The treatment team will consider the status of the primary cancer, the number and location of secondary, metastatic brain or spine tumors, and the patient’s current symptoms and overall health when evaluating treatment options.

We also offer integrated care that helps promote a patient’s physical, psychological, and social well-being. Our services include nutritional counseling, clinical psychology services, and pain and symptom management.

Learn more about the management of side effects at the Brain and Tumor Center