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Metastatic brain tumor

  • Alternative Names

    Brain tumor - metastatic (secondary); Cancer - brain tumor (metastatic)

    • Decreased coordination, clumsiness, falls
    • Rapid emotional changes or strange behaviors
    • Fever (sometimes)
    • General ill feeling or lethargy
    • Headache -- recent or a new, more severe type type for the person
    • Memory loss, poor judgment, difficulty solving problems
    • Numbness, tingling, pain, and other changes in sensation
    • Personality changes
    • Seizures -- new for the person
    • Speech difficulties
    • Vision changes -- double vision, decreased vision
    • Vomiting -- with or without nausea
    • Weakness of a body area

    Note: Specific symptoms vary. The symptoms commonly seen with most types of metastatic brain tumor are those caused by increased pressure in the brain.

    Signs and tests

    An examination reveals neurologic changes that are specific to the location of the tumor. Signs of increased pressure within the skull are also common. Some tumors may not show symptoms until they are very large. Then, they suddenly cause rapid decline in the person's neurologic functioning.

    The original (primary) tumor may already be known, or it may be discovered after an examination of tumor tissues from the brain indicates that it is a metastatic type of tumor.

    • A CT scan or MRI of the brain can confirm the diagnosis of brain tumor and identify the location of the tumor. MRI is usually better for finding tumors in the brain.
    • Cerebral angiography is occasionally performed. It may show a space-occupying mass, which may or may not be highly vascular (filled with blood vessels).
    • A chest x-ray, mammogram, CT scans of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis, and other tests are performed to look for the original site of the tumor.
    • An EEG may reveal abnormalities in the nerve signaling in the brain.
    • An examination of tissue removed from the tumor during surgery or CT scan-guided biopsy is used to confirm the exact type of tumor. If the primary tumor can be located outside of the brain, the primary tumor is usually biopsied rather than the brain tumor.
    • A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is sometimes also performed to test the cerebral spinal fluid to look for cells related to the tumor.