Treatment for brain metastases can control symptoms and improve quality of life. In some cases these treatments can also help you live longer with your cancer.
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy, is effective for treating some brain metastases. Unlike chemotherapy, radiation therapy's effectiveness is not limited by the blood brain barrier and can penetrate the brain to kill cancer cells. For brain metastasis, radiation may provide a better quality of life, longer life or both.
Sometimes, surgery can help manage symptoms, such as relieving pressure in the brain. Surgery also helps doctors confirm that the tumors in the brain are really brain metastases. Surgery is often considered if you have a single brain metastasis.
Literally meaning "drug treatment," chemotherapy is medication used to kill the cancer cells. Traditionally, chemotherapy has a limited role in treating brain metastases due to the blood-brain barrier, which restricts what can travel from the blood into the brain. This protective barrier prevents many chemotherapy drugs from entering the brain. However, newer drugs may be able to pass through this blood brain barrier to help control the brain metastases
In most cases, patients with metastases will not be "cured" of their cancer. However, modern treatments including radiation therapy allow doctors to control the brain metastases, enabling many patients with cancer that has spread to live months to years longer with their cancer. The duration of survival time will depend on where the original cancer came from, where else it has spread and how well it responds to treatments rather than on the actual number of brain metastases. Also important is how well controlled the cancer is outside of the brain.