Adapting to endure humanity's impact on the world. Oleg Tsupykov on Wikimedia Commons. Produced in partnership with Two Photon. New research finds that neurons migrate from the brain to infiltrate cancer cells, and that targeting this process is a promising new method of attack on cancer.
Breast Cancer Spread to the Brain—Symptoms and Treatments
Secondary, or metastatic , brain tumors, which have spread to the brain from another location in the body, are much more common than primary brain tumors. Some cancers that commonly metastasize to the brain are lung , breast , colon , kidney , melanoma , thyroid and uterine. Lung cancer is the most common form of metastatic brain cancer. In fact, lung cancer staging often involves a brain scan.
A study in nonhuman primates by researchers at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Maryland School of Medicine has shown that the breast cancer drug letrozole has adverse effects on the brain. Letrozole is an aromatase inhibitor AI that is often given as adjuvant therapy to women with estrogen receptor-dependent breast cancer, but the treatment is linked with side effects including hot flashes and mood changes. Estrogens are produced through the conversion of testosterone by the enzyme aromatase, and patients with estrogen receptor-dependent breast cancer are commonly treated using adjuvant aromatase inhibitors, such as letrozole, to prevent this conversion. AI therapy is also used for men with prostate or breast cancers.
For most, the breast cancer has already traveled to another part of the body, such as the bones, liver, or lung. The risk of cancer spread to the brain is usually highest for women with more aggressive subtypes of breast cancer, such as HER2-positive or triple-negative breast cancer. If your doctor suspects brain metastasis, he or she will order an MRI magnetic resonance imaging study of the brain, often with contrast solution. This solution is delivered intravenously and then travels into the brain, helping to make the study images clearer.