Updated: 12/11/2018

Metastatic Brain Cancer

Review Topic
  • A 67-year-old woman presents to the emergency department by her daughter due to an observed seizure-like event. The daughter states that this is the first time she has ever had a seizure. The daughter also reports that for the past few weeks she has had progressively worsening diffuse headaches, which are more severe in the morning, and accompanied by nausea. Medical history is significant for breast cancer. On physical exam, there is right-sided weakness in both upper and lower extremities. A head CT was obtained which showed hyperdense lesions with surrounding vasogenic edema.
  • Most common intracranial malignancy in adults
    • most commonly carcinomas such as
      • lung
      • breast
      • kidney
      • colorectal
      • melanomas
  • In children, most common sources are
    • sarcomas
    • neuroblastomas
    • germ cell tumors
  • Pathogenesis
    • hematogenous spread (most commonly)
      • usually found at gray-white matter junction
  • Epidemiology
    • > 50% of all intracranial tumors
  • Highly variable clinical presentation
    • must be suspected in patients with a history of malignancy who present with neurologic symptoms or behavioral abnormalities
  • Symptoms
    • headache
    • morning headache is highly suggestive
      • although it is uncommon
    • nausea and vomiting
    • cognitive dysfunction
      • e.g., personality changes and altered mental status
    • seizure
      • of new onset
    • stroke
      • patients with malignancy are at risk of being hypercoagulable
      • may hemorrhage into the metastasis
      • tumor may compress artery
  • Physical exam
    • focal neurologic deficit
      • e.g., hemiparesis
      • location dependent
    • papilledema
  • Contrast-enhanced MRI
    • preferred for diagnosing brain metastasis
    • features suggestive of metastasis
      • multiple lesions
      • lesions at grey-white matter junction
      • vasogenic edema
        • large when compared to lesion size
  • Brain biopsy
    • when diagnosis is unclear
  • Primary brain tumor
  • Intracranial abscess
  • Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)
  • Cerebral infarction or hemorrhage
  • Increased intracranial pressure
    • dexamethasone
  • Seizures
    • phenytoin
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery
    • stereotactic radiosurgery
    • surgical resection
      • neurosurgical resection is the standard for a single or limited number of metastases in a surgically accessible location
Prognosis, Prevention, and Complications
  • Prognosis
    • if untreated, the median survival from solid tumors of brain metastases is ~ 1-2 months

Please rate topic.

Average 5.0 of 2 Ratings

Thank you for rating! Please vote below and help us build the most advanced adaptive learning platform in medicine

The complexity of this topic is appropriate for?
How important is this topic for board examinations?
How important is this topic for clinical practice?
Questions (2)
Lab Values
Blood, Plasma, Serum Reference Range
ALT 8-20 U/L
Amylase, serum 25-125 U/L
AST 8-20 U/L
Bilirubin, serum (adult) Total // Direct 0.1-1.0 mg/dL // 0.0-0.3 mg/dL
Calcium, serum (Ca2+) 8.4-10.2 mg/dL
Cholesterol, serum Rec: < 200 mg/dL
Cortisol, serum 0800 h: 5-23 μg/dL //1600 h:
3-15 μg/dL
2000 h: ≤ 50% of 0800 h
Creatine kinase, serum Male: 25-90 U/L
Female: 10-70 U/L
Creatinine, serum 0.6-1.2 mg/dL
Electrolytes, serum  
Sodium (Na+) 136-145 mEq/L
Chloride (Cl-) 95-105 mEq/L
Potassium (K+) 3.5-5.0 mEq/L
Bicarbonate (HCO3-) 22-28 mEq/L
Magnesium (Mg2+) 1.5-2.0 mEq/L
Estriol, total, serum (in pregnancy)  
24-28 wks // 32-36 wks 30-170 ng/mL // 60-280 ng/mL
28-32 wk // 36-40 wks 40-220 ng/mL // 80-350 ng/mL
Ferritin, serum Male: 15-200 ng/mL
Female: 12-150 ng/mL
Follicle-stimulating hormone, serum/plasma Male: 4-25 mIU/mL
Female: premenopause: 4-30 mIU/mL
midcycle peak: 10-90 mIU/mL
postmenopause: 40-250
pH 7.35-7.45
PCO2 33-45 mmHg
PO2 75-105 mmHg
Glucose, serum Fasting: 70-110 mg/dL
2-h postprandial:<120 mg/dL
Growth hormone - arginine stimulation Fasting: <5 ng/mL
Provocative stimuli: > 7ng/mL
Immunoglobulins, serum  
IgA 76-390 mg/dL
IgE 0-380 IU/mL
IgG 650-1500 mg/dL
IgM 40-345 mg/dL
Iron 50-170 μg/dL
Lactate dehydrogenase, serum 45-90 U/L
Luteinizing hormone, serum/plasma Male: 6-23 mIU/mL
Female: follicular phase: 5-30 mIU/mL
midcycle: 75-150 mIU/mL
postmenopause 30-200 mIU/mL
Osmolality, serum 275-295 mOsmol/kd H2O
Parathyroid hormone, serume, N-terminal 230-630 pg/mL
Phosphatase (alkaline), serum (p-NPP at 30° C) 20-70 U/L
Phosphorus (inorganic), serum 3.0-4.5 mg/dL
Prolactin, serum (hPRL) < 20 ng/mL
Proteins, serum  
Total (recumbent) 6.0-7.8 g/dL
Albumin 3.5-5.5 g/dL
Globulin 2.3-3.5 g/dL
Thyroid-stimulating hormone, serum or plasma .5-5.0 μU/mL
Thyroidal iodine (123I) uptake 8%-30% of administered dose/24h
Thyroxine (T4), serum 5-12 μg/dL
Triglycerides, serum 35-160 mg/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3), serum (RIA) 115-190 ng/dL
Triiodothyronine (T3) resin uptake 25%-35%
Urea nitrogen, serum 7-18 mg/dL
Uric acid, serum 3.0-8.2 mg/dL
Hematologic Reference Range
Bleeding time 2-7 minutes
Erythrocyte count Male: 4.3-5.9 million/mm3
Female: 3.5-5.5 million mm3
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (Westergren) Male: 0-15 mm/h
Female: 0-20 mm/h
Hematocrit Male: 41%-53%
Female: 36%-46%
Hemoglobin A1c ≤ 6 %
Hemoglobin, blood Male: 13.5-17.5 g/dL
Female: 12.0-16.0 g/dL
Hemoglobin, plasma 1-4 mg/dL
Leukocyte count and differential  
Leukocyte count 4,500-11,000/mm3
Segmented neutrophils 54%-62%
Bands 3%-5%
Eosinophils 1%-3%
Basophils 0%-0.75%
Lymphocytes 25%-33%
Monocytes 3%-7%
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin 25.4-34.6 pg/cell
Mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration 31%-36% Hb/cell
Mean corpuscular volume 80-100 μm3
Partial thromboplastin time (activated) 25-40 seconds
Platelet count 150,000-400,000/mm3
Prothrombin time 11-15 seconds
Reticulocyte count 0.5%-1.5% of red cells
Thrombin time < 2 seconds deviation from control
Plasma Male: 25-43 mL/kg
Female: 28-45 mL/kg
Red cell Male: 20-36 mL/kg
Female: 19-31 mL/kg
Cerebrospinal Fluid Reference Range
Cell count 0-5/mm3
Chloride 118-132 mEq/L
Gamma globulin 3%-12% total proteins
Glucose 40-70 mg/dL
Pressure 70-180 mm H2O
Proteins, total < 40 mg/dL
Sweat Reference Range
Chloride 0-35 mmol/L
Calcium 100-300 mg/24 h
Chloride Varies with intake
Creatinine clearance Male: 97-137 mL/min
Female: 88-128 mL/min
Estriol, total (in pregnancy)  
30 wks 6-18 mg/24 h
35 wks 9-28 mg/24 h
40 wks 13-42 mg/24 h
17-Hydroxycorticosteroids Male: 3.0-10.0 mg/24 h
Female: 2.0-8.0 mg/24 h
17-Ketosteroids, total Male: 8-20 mg/24 h
Female: 6-15 mg/24 h
Osmolality 50-1400 mOsmol/kg H2O
Oxalate 8-40 μg/mL
Potassium Varies with diet
Proteins, total < 150 mg/24 h
Sodium Varies with diet
Uric acid Varies with diet
Body Mass Index (BMI) Adult: 19-25 kg/m2

Question locked
Sorry, this question is for
PEAK Premium Subscribers only
Upgrade to PEAK

You have 100% on this question.
Just skip this one for now.

(M2.ON.41) A 45-year-old female is admitted to the hospital after worsening headaches for the past month. She has noticed that the headaches are usually generalized, and frequently occur during sleep. She does not have a history of migraines or other types of headaches. Her past medical history is significant for breast cancer, which was diagnosed a year ago and treated with mastectomy. She recovered fully and returned to work shortly thereafter. CT scan of the brain now shows a solitary cortical 5cm mass surrounded by edema in the left hemisphere of the brain at the grey-white matter junction. She is admitted to the hospital for further management. What is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient? Review Topic

QID: 106285





Seizure prophylaxis and palliative pain therapy




Irradiation to the breasts




Irradiation to the brain mass




Surgical resection of the mass




Select Answer to see Preferred Response

Topic COMMENTS (4)
Private Note