Many types of cancer can spread (metastasize) to the brain. Over the past several decades, the treatments for patients with brain metastases have improved dramatically due to advancements in medical technology.
Most brain metastases can be treated using a combination of surgery and focused radiation with a tool called the Gamma Knife. Previously, the only treatment option for patients with brain metastases was whole-brain radiation therapy, which delivered radiation to both the tumor and the normal brain, causing significant cognitive side effects.
At UT Southwestern Medical Center, we believe in focused treatment of brain metastases – methods that treat the tumor while preserving normal brain function.
We treat a large number of patients with brain metastases each year, and it is clear that clinical outcomes for patients with brain metastases are better at high-volume centers than at low-volume centers. As one of only two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the state of Texas (and the only one in North Texas), UT Southwestern is a national leader in delivering state-of-the-art cancer care.
About Brain Metastases
Metastases are focuses of cancer that have “broken off” from the main tumor and spread to distant sites in the body.
Most systemic chemotherapies do not penetrate the brain, and as a result, physicians are seeing more and more patients with brain metastases.
Many types of cancers can metastasize to the brain, including those that originally developed in the breast, lung, melanoma, kidney, or colon.
Previously, a diagnosis of brain metastases was often considered hopeless. Patients were treated with whole-brain radiation, which delivered large radiation doses to the tumors but also simultaneously to the normal brain, as well. This resulted in significant side effects, including severe cognitive dysfunction.
Today, our treatment for brain metastases is much more sophisticated. We now have the ability to pinpoint treatment to the cancer, without affecting the normal brain.
The evaluation of a patient with brain metastases requires careful thought and is best done in a multidisciplinary manner. Neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists work together to develop personalized treatment plans for each patient, which maximizes patient benefit while minimizing risk.
Treatments for brain metastases include:
- Surgery – for tumors large in size or causing neurologic symptoms
- Focused radiation with the Gamma Knife – for smaller tumors
Both of these strategies help preserve normal brain function.
Brain Metastases Specialists
How We Can Help
Most of the patients we see for brain metastases at UT Southwestern are referred by their medical oncologist to one of our neurosurgeons or radiation oncologists. You may ask to be referred to us by your physician, or you may contact us by calling 214-645-8300.
All patients with brain metastases are seen promptly. Same- and next-day appointments are often available.
What To Expect
When you are seen at UT Southwestern for a brain metastasis, your evaluating physician will gather information about your current disease status, your chemotherapy medications, and any treatments you have had to date. Your physician will then confer with the multidisciplinary brain metastases team, and together we will formulate a treatment plan that is personalized to you.
Neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists at UT Southwestern work closely with medical oncologists both at UT Southwestern and in the surrounding North Texas communities. We encourage our patients to maintain their longstanding relationships with their physicians both inside and outside of the UT Southwestern system.