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Metastatic Tumours

Malignant tumours arising from body organ systems commonly spread to the brain in roughly one-quarter of cases. In about 10% of cases, it is the metastasis to the brain which is the first sign of a tumour in another organ. When the tumours spread to the brain they can spread both singly and multiply. Their presentation is commonly with symptoms of raised pressure because of a fair amount of swelling in the brain around the tumours themselves. Epileptic seizures or loss of function of a particular part of the brain relative to the area where the tumour has metastasized to are common presentations.

Surgery may play a role if a large tumour is accessible to the surgeon where usually a complete removal can be carried out. In some cases it will be necessary to obtain tissue at least in order to make a diagnosis in those cases where the primary tumour is not known.

Radiation therapy has been the gold standard for treatment for metastatic tumours. This involves usually radiation of the entire brain, which may have significant effects in terms brain function. More recently, the use of focused radiation, such as the Gamma Knife, has allowed single or multiple tumours to be radiated, but in a way that does not involve the surrounding brain. Information is now coming out that this form of treatment is providing longer survivals with good quality of life in patients in whom it is utilized. Tumours, which in the past have been considered relatively resistant to whole brain radiotherapy, have seemed to be more sensitive to the focused radiation.

Patients with metastatic tumours are general primarily followed by either radiation or medical oncologists. Chemotherapy is often utilized for these tumours as well.

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