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Can Breast Cancer Spread To The Brain

Metastatic Brain Tumor Surgery

Why Cancers Spread to the Brain

Surgery provides fast relief of mass effect pressure inside the skull resulting from a growing metastatic tumor and swelling of the brain. Some patients may find improvement of symptoms as early as within hours of surgery if mass effect is what is causing your symptoms.

The goal of surgery is to minimize the amount of space the tumor takes up by debulking, which means removing as much of the tumor as possible while maintaining neurological function.

In general, doctors recommend surgery for metastatic brain cancer when:

  • There is a clear link between the symptoms and the tumors location.
  • The primary cancer is treatable and under control.
  • The tumor can be safely removed.

The most common type of surgery to remove metastatic brain tumors is called a craniotomy, which can be performed through a variety of approaches, including the keyhole craniotomy.

Spotting Symptoms Of Spread

More women like Hendron and Reece are living longer with metastatic breast cancer and will at some point require treatment for brain metastasis. Current options, such as radiation and surgery, arent a possibility for all patients, depending on the number of tumors, and can have lingering side effects. For many patients, the development of brain metastases greatly limits life quality and expectancy.

Fortunately, new targeted therapies and immunotherapies show promise for brain metastases. These innovations have the potential to treat secondary tumors while minimizing harm to healthy brain tissue and reducing the possibility of negative long-term side effects.

Were all taught in medical school that the brain doesnt regenerate, so its very difficult once you have a neurologic symptom to have full recovery, unless its very short-lived, says Dr. Carey K. Anders, medical director of the Brain and Spine Metastases Program at the Duke Cancer Center in Durham, North Carolina. We dont want our patients to have to live with a neurologic symptom that could alter their daily life, whether it affects driving, caring for themselves and their family, doing their work or the hobby that they love.

The brain, bones, lungs and liver are common sites of breast cancer metastases. Breast cancer is the second leading source of brain metastases after lung cancer, and 10% to 15% of all patients with the disease will develop at least one secondary brain tumor.

Metastatic Brain Cancer Treatment

It is important to know that metastatic brain tumors are often treatable, and can be well-controlled. Generally, the faster you start treatment, the better the chances of killing or controlling the disease.

The treatment options for brain metastases may include:

  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Clinical trials

In many cases, surgery or radiation therapy can improve or entirely get rid of symptoms. Read more about brain tumor treatment.

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How Will I Know If My Breast Cancer Spreads

Your doctor will use specific kinds of tests to find out if your cancer has gone to other places in your body. First, your doctor will want to know how youâre feeling. They will ask you about any symptoms youâre having and your overall health. They might also look at the size of your tumor and check your lymph nodes.

After that, the doctor may give you:

Blood tests. They look for signs of anything abnormal thatâs happening in your body. For example, results from a liver function test can let your doctor know that breast cancer may have gone to your liver. High levels of some substances in your blood hint that the cancer has spread to your bones.

Imaging scans. These tests make detailed pictures of the inside of your body. They help your doctor pinpoint any cancer spread. These tests include:

  • X-ray

Defining Value In The Treatment Of Brain Metastasis In Metastatic Breast Cancer

Metastatic Sites and Symptoms of ILC

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Brain metastasis in metastatic breast cancer can be silent, and it is fairly common for patients to be asymptomatic. But mBC has substantial direct and indirect costs for patients, insurance payers, and society. The goals of therapy for mBC with brain metastasis are to improve symptoms, stabilize or reduce the tumor burden, maintain quality of life, and improve overall survival. New therapies can provide value by reducing the risk of distant metastasis, preventing central nervous system relapse, and improving quality of life. This article discusses the risk factors, comorbidities, diagnosis, economic burden, and treatments for brain metastasis in mBC, based on recent Insights video interviews with Kevin Kalinsky, MD, MS Sarah Sammons, MD and Bhavesh Shah, RPh, BCOP. To watch the full interviews, visit ajmc.com/insights.


HER2-Positive Breast Cancer

Progression to Metastatic Disease

According to Bhavesh Shah, RPh, BCOP, HER2-positive breast cancer is a very aggressive disease. It is second only to nonsmall cell lung cancer in causing brain metastasis. An estimated 60% of the deaths of patients with HER2-positive disease are from progression to the brain, said Shah.



Disease Monitoring



Goals of Therapy

Initial Therapy

Agents With CNS Activity


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H& o Could You Discuss The Use Of The Diagnosis

CA Initially, the GPA score depended on the patients age, the patients performance status, and the presence or control of extracranial disease. These 3 factors were used to determine the prognosis of a particular patient. For example, a 35-year-old patient with an excellent performance status and no evidence of extracranial disease would have a better prognosis than an elderly patient with a performance status of 2 or 3 and uncontrolled lung metastases. This score helped us to tailor therapies and counsel patients on what to expect.

Since the original GPA was published, we have come to recognize that histologic subtype among patients with breast cancer also plays a role in prognosis, and the scale has been adjusted.

Treatment Options For Stage Iv Breast Cancer

For women with stage IV breast cancer, systemic therapies are the main treatments. These may include:

  • Some combination of these

Surgery and/or radiation therapy may be useful in certain situations .

Treatment can often shrink tumors , improve symptoms, and help women live longer. These cancers are considered incurable.

Read Also: How To Remove Breast Cancer Naturally

H& o What Are The Sequelae Of Brain Metastases

CA The skull is a confined space, and any additional mass can lead to pressure on the brain and related symptoms. In our clinic, we become concerned about the possibility of brain metastases if patients begin to experience headaches, blurred vision, or unexplained nausea.

The symptoms of brain metastases are highly linked to their location. For example, patients with brain metastases in the frontal lobes tend to exhibit emotional lability and changes in personality. Patients with brain metastases in the parietal lobes tend to have difficulty with speech, movement, and sensation in the extremities. Those with brain metastases in the cerebellum can have gait disturbances and difficulty with coordination. Difficulty with vision can occur with brain metastases in the occipital lobes.

H& o Which Clinical Trials Looking At Patients With Breast Cancer That Has Metastasized To The Brain Would You Like To Call Out

Novel Treatment Approach for Breast Cancer Spread to Brain

CA Numerous trials are being carried out. The JPBO study is looking at the use of the cyclin-dependent kinase 4/6 inhibitor abemaciclib in patients with hormone receptorpositive breast cancer who have brain metastases . The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is enrolling patients in a study that is examining the use of neratinib and capecitabine for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and brain metastases . We are currently enrolling patients in a study at the University of North Carolina evaluating the use of everolimus in patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and brain metastases . In addition, a phase 2 study that has completed accrual is investigating the use of ANG1005, which can cross the blood-brain barrier, in patients with breast cancer that has metastasized to the brain . A number of exciting compounds are being investigated, and I recommend ClinicalTrials.gov and BrainMetsBC.org as valuable resources for physicians and patients. Because we do not have an FDA-approved agent for treating brain metastases, enrollment in a clinical trial is a good idea for these patients. I also think that more breast cancer trials in general should include patients with brain metastases.


Suggested Readings

Anders CK, Adamo B, Karginova O, et al. Pharmacokinetics and efficacy of PEGylated liposomal doxorubicin in an intracranial model of breast cancer. PLoS One. 2013 8:e61359.

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Chemotherapy For Metastatic Brain Tumors

Because traditional chemotherapy cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, newer treatments called targeted therapy are used as the primary type of chemotherapy for treating metastatic brain tumors.

These drugs identify and attack cancer cells with minimal harm to normal cells while preventing the growth and spread of cancer cells. Targeted therapy can be administered after surgery or in conjunction with radiation therapy to destroy remaining cancer cells.

Targeted therapies used to treat metastatic brain tumors include:

  • Trastuzumab for breast cancer that has spread to the brain
  • Erlotinib for the most common type of lung cancer that has spread to the brain

Clinical Characteristics Of The Cohort

The median age at WBRT was 58 years . At diagnosis of brain metastases, 60 patients had brain metastases only and 75% had other distant metastases as well also had visceral metastases, 45 patients had non-visceral metastases, and 85 patients had both visceral and non-visceral metastases). Median number of palliative chemotherapy lines before WBRT was 2 . Eighty-two patients had palliative endocrine therapy before WBRT and 150 patients had not. Palliative trastuzumab had been given before WBRT to 60 patients .

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Clinical Trial Demonstrates Focused Ultrasound Can Deliver Antibody Therapy To Breast Cancer Metastases In The Brain

What Are The Various Types Of Metastatic Breast Cancer ...

MR images showing reduction in metastatic tumor size after focused ultrasound delivery of antibody therapy across the blood-brain barrier.Credits: Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center

Researchers at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, Canada, can use magnetic resonance -guided focused ultrasound to safely provide antibody therapy to breast cancer that has spread to the brain in the worlds first clinical trial. Demonstrated. ..

This Phase I clinical trial targets Her2-positive breasts cancer Patient, Sunny Brook team captured an image of the antibody Treatment, Trastuzumab , accurately target tumors brain After using Insightecs Exablate Neuro focus Ultrasonic device It opens the blood-brain barrier temporarily and non-invasively, allowing intravenous trastuzumab to gain more effective access to the tumor site.

Antibody therapy can help the immune system fight cancer cells and is often used in combination with radiation therapy or chemotherapy. However, BBB presents challenges when trying to target parts of the brain. BBB is a layer of cells that line the inside of blood vessels and protects the brain from viruses, bacteria, and other toxins, but reaches the brain in concentrations high enough for therapeutic agents such as trastuzumab to work. You can also prevent it.

These results set the stage of potential to offer both established and new treatments for many brain conditions that cannot otherwise gain access to the brain.

For more information:

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Immunotherapy For Metastatic Brain Tumors

Cancer immunotherapy is a fast-growing field of research that seeks to develop drugs, vaccines and other therapies that trigger the immune systems natural abilities to fight cancer. Many immunotherapy drugs for metastatic brain tumors act as checkpoint inhibitors. Normally, tumor cells can evade attack by activating certain proteins that disarm your immune system. Checkpoint inhibitors prevent tumor cells from exploiting this process.

Immunotherapy drugs to treat metastatic brain tumors include:

  • Atezolizumab
  • Nivolumab

Good News For Patients With Brain Metastases

This post is available in: Spanish

When cancer spreads to the brainfrom a different part of the body, historically life expectancy has beengenerally poor. In addition, its been difficult for doctors to predictsurvivability. But thanks to groundbreaking work in a three-country study thatincluded MiamiCancer Institute, all of that is changing.

Doctors at the Institute, along with those at 17 other cancer centers in the United States, Canada and Japan, have determined that survival rates for patients with brain metastases are improving, making many eligible for clinical trials and innovative treatments that they would have been previously excluded from. In addition, the researchers developed an algorithm that very accurately predicts prognosis.

Weve found that there are subcategories of patients who have substantially better survival were talking survival in years compared to months, said Minesh Mehta, M.D., deputy director and chief of radiation oncology at Miami Cancer Institute. No longer does one need to speculate or guess to make a prediction on a brain metastases patients survival.

If we recognize that thesepatients can have better survival and enroll them on these trials, we might infact identify newer agents that are more effective, Dr. Mehta said.

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How Are Metastatic Brain Tumors Diagnosed

Metastatic brain and spine tumors are not usually diagnosed until symptoms appear. Here are some ways doctors may diagnose a metastatic brain tumor:

  • Physical exam: After gathering information about your symptoms and personal and family health history, the doctor proceeds with a physical exam and vision and reflex tests.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Diffusion tensor imaging is a type of MRI that visualizes how water molecules pass through parts of the brain. It reveals microscopic differences of tissue structure, including very early infiltration of cancer cells.
  • Biopsy: Collecting a piece of the tumor through surgery may be necessary when the diagnosis is unclear based on the other tests.
  • Radiation Therapy For Metastatic Brain Tumors

    Brain Metastases

    Radiation therapy treats metastatic brain tumors by using X-rays and other forms of radiation to destroy cancer cells or prevent a tumor from growing. It is also called radiotherapy.

    These painless treatments involve passing beams of radiation through the brain, which can treat cancers in areas that are difficult to reach through surgery. Procedures may include any one or a combination of the following:

    • External beam radiation therapy delivers radiation from a machine and through the body to reach metastatic tumors.
    • Whole-brain radiation targets the entire brain to hit multiple tumors or any metastatic disease that hides from an MRI scan.
    • Stereotactic radiosurgery directs a high dose of radiation targeted to the specific shape of the tumor, sparing surrounding healthy tissue from unnecessary radiation exposure.
    • Proton therapy uses protons to treat metastatic brain tumors. Like stereotactic radiosurgery, proton therapy minimizes harm to healthy tissue surrounding a tumor.
  • Brachytherapy is radioactive material implanted within a tumor to prevent further growth.
  • These procedures may be performed after surgery to prevent tumors from recurring at the surgical site and growing into other brain tissue.

    Because radiation therapy has been so successful in treating brain metastases and because many live long lives after treatment studies are now looking at how to manage the long-term effects of treatment.

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    If Your Breast Cancer Has Spread

    Even if your breast cancer has spread to other parts of your body, it does not necessarily mean its not treatable. If the cancer cannot be removed, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms, improve quality of life and extend survival.

    Some women live with breast cancer for several years as they learn to adjust and accept that theyll be on treatment for an indefinite period of time, explains Dr. Roesch. Your cancer team will help you learn and cope with what you can expect on this journey.

    What Are The Signs Of Breast Cancer

    While breast is more common in older women, it does affect the younger generation and men too with around 20 per cent of cases occurring in females under 50 and 350 male cases diagnosed in the UK annually.

    While 90 per cent of such lumps are not cancerous, it is vital to get them checked by your GP at the earliest opportunity detecting the disease early can mean treatment is more effective.

    It is therefore vitally important to be “breast aware” – know what feels normal for you, and therefore what changes to look out for.

    The most common signs to know include:

    • A lump or swelling in the breast, upper chest or armpit. You might feel the lump, but not see it.
    • Changes in the size or shape of the breast
    • A change in skin texture i.e. puckering or dimpling of the skin
    • A change in the colour of the breast – the breast may look red or inflamed
    • Rash, crusting or changes to the nipple
    • Any unusual discharge from either nipple

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    Hello I Usually Post On The

    Hello I usually post on the breast cancer page but was reading around in here since mine has now developed into the liquid in my brain and spine. I had a ommaya resovor put in and have received 2 treatments in it so far. No one has given me an expiration date! and I dont want one. The spinal tap or lumbar puncture is very painful BUT they also pull fluid out of the ommaya port in my head which is not painful at all neither are the treatments. I had a seizure on May 29th and am still recovering from that so I am a little weak still and am walking with a walker and Im only 43 🙁 hope to be strong enough to get off the walker SOON!!! Have hope and help her fight!!!


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