Brain metastases

Brain metastases are when cancer spreads to the brain. These metastases are a result of a tumor elsewhere in the body. This tumor develops in one of the organs such as the breast, and spreads into the blood stream and/or the lymph nodes throughout the rest of the body.

The tumor cells end up in the smaller blood vessels in the brain, where they develop into tumors that can cause symptoms. Brain metastases are more common than primary brain tumors.

Brain metastases are especially common in patients who are in their final stage of life and already have developed metastases in other parts of the body such as the liver, bones, or lungs.

All tumor types can potentially become metastatic and spread to the brain. Breast cancer, lung cancer, and malignant skin cancer (melanoma) are especially likely to spread to the brain.

Brain metastases symptoms

Every patient experiences different symptoms when their tumor has spread to the brain. These depend on the exact location of the tumor. Some common symptoms are:

  • epileptic seizures;
  • headaches;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • hemiparesis (loss of function in an arm, leg, or half the body);
  • dizziness and balance issues;
  • difficulty speaking;
  • difficulty seeing;
  • behavioral changes and/or memory issues.

Second opinion after cancer diagnosis

Maybe you have received your cancer diagnosis elsewhere and would like the Netherlands Cancer Institute to look over your medical history for a second opinion. Read more about requesting a second opinion at our institute here.

You and your practicing physician will decide which diagnostic tests will be needed for your diagnosis and treatment plan. All tests and treatment options are optional, and depend on your overall health and shape, age, and the stage of your disease.

Treatment options brain metastases


Chemotherapy can be administered as an addition to other treatment, before or after a surgery or in combination with radiation therapy.

Read more about the treatment

Radiotherapy for brain tumors

Brain tumors can develop in the brain tissue (primary brain tumors) or develop as metastases of tumors in other parts of the body.

Read more about the treatment


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