Metastatic Brain Tumor Care

If you need care for metastatic brain cancer, turn to UC San Diego Health for the latest and most comprehensive diagnosis and treatment.

Metastatic brain tumors come from cancers that start in another part of your body. This makes them different from primary brain tumors, or those that start in the brain.

Cancers that are metastatic might begin in the lung, breast, skin, kidney, colon or other areas. They are sometimes called secondary brain tumors, and they may spread to the brain even if the cancer is controlled at the original site.

In adults, metastatic brain tumors are more common than tumors that start from cells in the brain. They are also treated differently from tumors that start in the brain.

How Are Metastatic Brain Tumors Diagnosed?

Metastatic brain tumors can be found before, after or at the same time cancer is diagnosed elsewhere in your body.

Some of the tests we use to look for metastatic brain tumors are:

  • MRI, CT or PET scan: These imaging scans are used to get pictures of your brain. A PET scan looks at your whole body and might be done to detect other tumors.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): This test looks for cancer cells in the fluid around your brain and spinal cord.
  • Biopsy of the tumor: This is when a tiny piece of the tumor is removed for testing. It might be done with a needle or as part of surgery to remove part or all of the tumor.

In addition to physicians, our team includes social workers, psychologists and nurse practitioners who help with the non-medical aspects that may be a part of experiencing these types of tumors.