Metastatic Brain Tumours


Tumour Group: Metastatic Brain Tumours are considered a Tumour Group
WHO Grade: N/A

People are surviving other cancers longer than ever before. As a result, it is likely that the incidence of metastatic brain tumours will rise in the years to come.

Currently, brain metastases occur in 20-40% of people with cancer.

Typical Age Range: Most common among middle-aged and elderly men and women.

Description of Tumour
Treatment / Standard of Care

Description of Tumour

Metastatic brain tumours, also called lesions or brain metastases, are caused by cancer that has spread from another part of the body.

  • Most brain metastases are located in the cerebrum, but can also develop in the cerebellum or brainstem
  • The primary cancer is usually in the lung, breast, colon, kidney or skin (melanoma), but can originate from any cancer in any part of the body

Tumours that spread to the brain may be single (solitary metastasis) or multiple in number.


Symptoms depend on the size and location of the tumour. The spread of a tumour to the brain may produce symptoms before the primary tumour is diagnosed.

Treatment / Standard of Care

Surgery, radiation, radiosurgery and supportive care are the main treatment options. For patients with a limited number of tumours then surgery and/or radiosurgery may be delivered followed by whole brain radiation therapy (WBRT). In cases of multiple lesions, WBRT alone may be given. Selected chemotherapy agents have been shown to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and may be used as first-line therapy.


A prognosis is an estimate of the likely progress of a disease after a diagnosis, based on an average patient group. Since every person is different, please take time to talk with your health care team about how this information applies to you.

By clicking on 'Expand,' a statistic on the prognosis for brain tumour metastases will be shown.

Expand for Prognosis Information

For brain tumour patients, a prognosis depends on several factors, which can include age and other health issues, the size of the tumour, its molecular profile, the type of tumour, how much can be removed and its response to treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Brain metastases have a poor prognosis for cure, but modern treatments allow patients to live months, and sometimes years, after a diagnosis.


Adult Brain Tumour Handbook 6th Edition. Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. 2012.

Louis, David N. WHO Classification of Tumours of the Central Nervous System. Lyon: International Agency for Research on Cancer, 2007. Print

"Metastatic Brain Tumours." American Brain Tumour Association, n.d. Web. 11 July 2013.

"Metastatic Brain Tumours (Brain Metastases)." Metastatic Brain Tumours (Brain Metastases). National Brain Tumour Society, n.d. Web. 11 July 2013.

Pediatric Brain Tumour Handbook 6th Edition. Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. 2012.

Image credited to


You can also download this information as a Information Sheet on Metastatic Brain Tumours (pdf).


Brain metastases occur in 20-40% of people with cancer, and will lead to over 7,000 diagnosed cases in 2013. For these individuals, quality of life is of the utmost importance.

Researcher Dr. Mark Ruschin received a 2013 Brain Tumour Research Grant to investigate various radiation delivery devices with the goal of improving brain metastases patients' quality of life by sparing healthy brain tissue.

Read about Dr. Ruschin's research study >> 


Share This

Featured Story

Roy and the Gamma Knife – A Happy Tale

I had headaches, almost daily, for 10 years or more. It was a rare day if I did not have a headache. I used to joke that I should own stock in headache remedy companies. I also had a lot of night sweats, non-restful sleep, and trouble regulating my body temperature. All these symptoms both my GP and I put off to stress.

Learn more


Courtney’s Story of Stability

Stability. It’s a strange concept when you have what it known to be a progressive, life long illness. You hear the words, “Your tumour...

Learn more

Stephen's Story: "I have faith that we will meet again"

Stephen and I chatted on what should have been his 32nd Wedding Anniversary. Stephen and Susan were married for 30 years and were best...

Learn more

Upcoming Events

  • 19/Mar/2018: Virtual Support Group for Caregivers: Virtual Support Group for Caregivers... Learn more >
  • 19/Mar/2018: Guelph Support Group: Meets at Hospice Wellington, Community Program Room, 795 Scottsdale Avenue,... Learn more >
  • 19/Mar/2018: Mississauga Support Group: Meets at Westminster United Church, 4094 Tomken Rd., Mississauga, ON... Learn more >
  • 19/Mar/2018: Edmonton Support Group: Meets at Wellspring Edmonton, 11306 65 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB ... Learn more >
View All Events >
Thank you to the donors whose contributions make this website and all programs, services and research possible.

Copyright © 2018 Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Charitable Registration #BN118816339RR0001