Brain metastases are a very common problem for patients who are living with cancer. A metastasis is when a cancer spreads from one part of the body to another part. Brain metastases are tumors in the brain that are formed when cancer cells travel through the blood and end up growing within the brain. For instance, the picture below is an example of a brain metastasis. Brain metastases are the most common intra-axial brain tumor. There are about 170,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Sometimes brain metastases can cause headaches or neurological systems or, in some cases, they can be asymptomatic.
At Jefferson Radiation Oncology, we have special expertise and sophisticated technology for fighting brain metastases and preserving quality of life. Surgery, stereotactic radiosurgery, and external beam radiation therapy are the most common treatments for patient's with brain metastases. Our radiation oncologists partner with neurosurgeons and the referring medical oncologist to help select the best modality for each patient.
Brain Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) can be used either in place of, or in conjunction with, fractionated external beam radiation therapy. When compared with conventional treatments, brain SRS not only offers superior local tumor control, but also has fewer side effects (i.e. minimal or no hair loss, less fatigue) and requires fewer patient visits to our department. Studies have shown that brain SRS boosts survival in patients with single brain metastases by 33 percent when added to whole brain radiation. Other groups have demonstrated that brain SRS can be used in place of whole brain radiation, and that whole brain radiation can be avoided in up to 70% of cases.