Metastatic Brain Tumors

Radiosurgery Treatment for Metastatic Brain Tumors

At the Swedish Radiosurgery Center, radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons have the option of using either CyberKnife or Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery to treat cancer that has spread to the brain. Both of these technologies are able to target the tumor with extreme precision. This level of accuracy minimizes the risk of radiation affecting the nearby normal brain.

What is a metastatic tumor?

Many types of cancer use the circulatory system (blood and lymph) as a highway to spread from one part of the body to another. This process is called metastasis and the resulting tumor in the new location is called a metastatic tumor.

About brain metastases

Metastatic tumors are the most common type of brain tumors.

There is no lymph in the brain or spine; therefore, blood vessels alone carry cancer cells to the brain. As the blood moves through the body, it picks up cancer cells along the way and deposits them in the brain. The types of cancer that are most likely to spread to the brain include:

  • Melanoma (skin cancer)
  • Lung
  • Breast
  • Kidney
  • Certain types of sarcomas
  • Bladder
  • Testicular
  • Germ cell

Prostate and colon cancer rarely spread to the brain.

Some types of cancer, such as melanoma, lung and breast, typically create multiple metastases in the brain.
Any brain tumor, whether it has originated in the brain or spread to the brain, can press on sensitive areas of the brain or skull, or on nerves, or veins and arteries carrying blood to and from the brain. All brain tumors may cause headaches, vision, balance and hearing problems, and they can disrupt other functions of the body.

Why is radiosurgery a good treatment option for metastatic brain tumors?

Radiosurgery may be a good treatment option to consider for metastatic brain tumors, either alone or in combination with surgery, chemotherapy or conventional radiation. It is a good option for tumors that are:

  • Difficult to reach surgically
  • Appear to be growing rapidly
  • Are very small

Radiosurgery is also a good option for patients who are not good candidates for surgery because of age or medical condition.

Radiosurgery may be an alternative to surgery, in which case the patient avoids general anesthesia, an incision in the scalp, and the risk of infection or other surgical complications. Additionally, there is a much shorter recovery time after radiosurgery. Usually patients leave the Radiosurgery Center shortly after their CyberKnife or Gamma Knife treatments and return to their normal daily activities.

How does radiosurgery work for metastatic brain tumors?

Whether the patient is scheduled for CyberKnife or Gamma Knife, the treatment process begins with imaging (MRI and/or CT scans), which is used to create a customized treatment plan. Both machines precisely aim multiple beams of radiation at the target from many different angles and positions based on the patient’s treatment plan. The Gamma Knife stays in one place and delivers all of the beams at one time. The Cyber Knife moves around the patient delivering one beam at a time.

Alone each of those beams of radiation is not strong enough to damage the normal brain through which it travels on its way to the target. Where the beams meet, however, the combined strength is enough to destroy the tumor cells.

Because our Radiosurgery Center has CyberKnife and Gamma Knife, our radiation oncologists and neurosurgeons are able to select the best leading-edge technology that will produce the very best possible outcomes.

Is radiosurgery right for you?

Once you have been diagnosed with a brain metastases, you and your doctor will discuss all of your treatment options. In planning your treatment, your doctor will consider your particular situation before making a recommendation.

We invite you to call the Swedish Radiosurgery Center at 206-320-7130 to talk with one of our radiosurgery specialists if you would like more information or a second opinion.