Clinical management of brain metastasis

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Brain metastasis is a common complication ocurring in about 15-20% of all cancer patients. For the initial management, distinguishing between three types of presentation is essential: de novo brain metastasis, simultaneous presentation of both brain metastasis and the primary tumour (usually lung carcinoma), and the presentation of a patient known to have systemic cancer developing a brain metastasis. For de novo brain metastasis, surgery is required, and detecting the primary tumour is of limited value. For simultaneous presentation, both a craniotomy and a thoracotomy may be indicated and may lead to cure in a number of cases. For a sequential presentation, the outcome is determined by a number of independent prognostic factors: age, performance status, and the extent of metastatic disease. In relatively young patients with a single brain metastasis, good performance status and no progression of systemic disease, treatment by either surgery or radiosurgery in combination with whole brain radiation therapy is indicated. Otherwise, as in multiple brain metastases, radiation therapy only is the main treatment. For symptomatic therapy of brain oedema or increased intracranial pressure, dexamethasone is administered. The standard doses of dexamethasone may vary between 4 and 16 mg/day, depending on the severity of symptoms.

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