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Semin Neurol. 2010 Jul;30(3):217-35. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1255225. Epub 2010 Jun 24.

Brain metastases.

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Department of Neurology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10065, USA.


Approximately 10% of patients with cancer develop brain metastases. Some evidence indicates that as techniques for treating systemic tumors improve, the incidence of brain metastases, sequestered as they are behind the blood-brain barrier, is increasing. Although usually appearing late in the course of the disease, a brain metastasis may cause the initial symptoms, before the primary cancer has been identified. The diagnostic and therapeutic approach depends on the number and location of brain lesions and the stage of the cancer. Patients with brain metastases are rarely cured. However, appropriate treatment can improve both the quality and duration of the patient's life. Treatment must be directed not only at the brain metastasis (definitive care), but also at a multitude of other symptoms that plague patients with brain metastases (supportive care). Judicious selection of pharmacologic agents and nonpharmacologic techniques can effectively treat many serious symptoms in patients with brain metastases, but injudicious selection of pharmacologic agents may have side effects and make the patient's quality of life worse. The authors review some aspects of both definitive and supportive care with particular attention to the side effects of some commonly used pharmacologic agents.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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