Brain metastases represent a significant healthcare problem. It is estimated that 20% to 40% of patients with cancer will develop metastatic cancer to the brain during the course of their illness. The burden of brain metastases impacts on quality and length of survival. Presenting symptoms include headache (49%), focal weakness (30%), mental disturbances (32%), gait ataxia (21%), seizures (18%), speech difficulty (12%), visual disturbance (6%), sensory disturbance (6%) and limb ataxia (6%).
Brain metastases may spread from any primary site. The most common primary site is the lung, followed by the breast then gastrointestinal sites. Eighty-five per cent of brain metastases are found in the cerebral hemispheres, 10% to 15% in the cerebellum and 1% to 3% in the brainstem. Brain radiotherapy is used to treat cancer participants who have brain metastases from various primary malignancies.
This is an update to the original review published in Issue 3, 2006.