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Metastatic Brain Tumors

‘Metastasize’ means to spread, grow or change form. In pathology (the science of disease), ‘metastasize’ describes the spread of cancer cells from the primary site of the disease to other parts of the body.  From primary sites such as the lungs, breasts, kidneys, bladder or skin, tumor cells can spread via the circulatory system (or, in the case of leukemia and lymphoma, can originate within it) to the brain.

Metastatic brain tumors (also referred to as brain metastases, secondary brain tumors or metastasis to the brain) are the most common type of brain tumor in adults. The majority of them are discovered after the primary cancer has already been diagnosed, when a cancer patient first experiences neurological symptoms and undergoes a CT or MRI scan. In rarer cases, a person with neurological symptoms (or requiring imaging for other medical reasons) and no history of cancer may undergo a brain scan that leads to the discovery of brain metastases. Over 80% of metastatic brain tumors arise as multiple lesions in the brain (with fewer than 20% manifesting as a single tumor), and over 80% of all lesions appear in the cerebrum (the uppermost, largest, most recently evolved part of the brain that receives the majority of blood flow).

The signs and symptoms of metastatic brain tumors are the same as any expanding intracranial (within the skull) lesion. They result from the pressure the metastases put on the surrounding tissue, from edema (fluid-based swelling) or from hemorrhage (bleeding). Symptoms vary based on the location of the tumor within the brain and include headaches, seizures, cognitive difficulties (loss of memory or changes in personality or behavior), weakness in an area of the body, decreased coordination or issues with vision, numbness, tingling or other sensation.

As cancer therapies have improved, an increasing number of cancer patients are living longer. Unfortunately, increased patient life expectancy gives cancer cells greater opportunity to spread from their primary sites, causing the incidence of metastatic brain tumors to rise as well. Thus, techniques for treating intracranial tumors, such as Gamma Knife radiosurgery, are vital components of the fight against cancer. Utilized by doctors at the Boston Gamma Knife Center at Tufts Medical Center to limit the growth of small or delicately situated metastases, Gamma Knife radiosurgery isn’t traditional surgery—no incisions are made. Instead, this state-of-the-art technology focuses 192 beamlets of gamma radiation on the tumor, delivering a high dosage at the site of convergence while saving the vital surrounding tissue from radiation’s harmful effects.

Programs + Services


Neuro-Oncology Program

Discover the Neuro-Oncology Cancer Treatment Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and learn more about the different types of brain tumors, including meningioma and glioblastoma, and the cancer treatment option that’s right for you. Request an appointment with us.
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Brain Tumor Center

The Brain Tumor Center at Tufts Medical Center offers Boston's most sophisticated brain tumor treatment options by a team of the world's top experts.
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Doctors + Care Team

Carl B. Heilman, MD

Carl B. Heilman, MD

Accepting New Patients

Title(s): Neurosurgeon-in-Chief; Chairman of Neurosurgery; Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurosurgery
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5860
Fax #: 617-636-7587

Meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, skull base surgery, pituitary surgery, Chiari surgery

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John E. Mignano, MD, PhD

John E. Mignano, MD, PhD

Title(s): Radiation Oncologist; Clinic Director; Associate Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Radiation Oncology, Pediatric Radiation Oncology
Appt. Phone: 617-636-6161
Fax #: 617-636-4513

Oncologic consultation for general radiotherapy and Gamma Knife, pediatric radiation oncology

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Julian K. Wu, MD

Julian K. Wu, MD

Accepting New Patients

Title(s): Associate Chairman, Neurosurgery; Chief, Neurosurgical Oncology; Neurosurgery Residency Program Director; Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurosurgery
Appt. Phone: 617-636-4500
Fax #: 617-636-7587

Neuro-oncology, Gamma Knife radiosurgery, meningiomas, pituitary tumors, gliomas, brain metastasis, trigeminal neuralgia

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Mina Safain, MD

Mina Safain, MD

Accepting New Patients

Title(s): Neurosurgeon; Assistant Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Department(s): Neurosurgery
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5860
Fax #: 617-636-7587

Pituitary tumors, brain tumors, meningiomas, minimally invasive spine surgery, complex and reconstructive spine surgery, spinal microsurgery, spinal trauma

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Suriya Jeyapalan, MD, MPH

Suriya Jeyapalan, MD, MPH

Accepting New Patients

Title(s): Neuro-Oncologist
Department(s): Neurology; Cancer Center
Appt. Phone: 617-636-5848
Fax #:

Neuro-oncology, brain tumors, neurologic metastases

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Research + Clinical Trials


Pivotal, Open-label, Randomized Study of Radiosurgery With or Without Tumor Treating Fields (TTFields) (150kHz) for 1-10 Brain Metastases From Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

The study is a prospective, randomized controlled phase III trial, to test the efficacy, safety and neurocognitive outcomes of advanced NSCLC patients, following stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for 1-10 brain metastases, treated with NovoTTF-100M compared to supportive treatment alone. The device is an experimental, portable, battery operated device for chronic administration of alternating electric fields (termed TTFields or TTF) to the region of the malignant tumor, by means of surface, insulated electrode arrays
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