In some cases, lung cancer will spread to the brain, causing tumors. In fact, almost any kind of cancer can spread to the brain under the right circumstances.
If cancer spreads from the lungs to the brain, it means the patient may face additional surgery, radiation therapy, stereotactic radiosurgery, or immunotherapies to combat the new diagnosis of cancer. This, of course, can lead to additional pain and suffering for the patient.
Types of Lung Cancer
A deadly cancer, lung cancer accounts for 24% of all cancer deaths, according to a review by the National Cancer Institute, even though lung cancer only accounts for 13% of all new cancer diagnoses. Only 19% of people with a lung cancer diagnosis will survive for more than five years, NCI reports.
Two types of lung cancer are possible:
- Non-small cell: which consists of multiple types of similar lung cancers, including adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.
- Small cell: which grows and spreads faster than non-small cell lung cancers.
Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for about 80 to 85% of lung cancer occurrences, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cancers that Spread
Sometimes, a cancer may start in one part of the body and spread to the lungs. Breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, and skin cancer are examples of cancers that may start elsewhere and later spread to the lungs.
Even if these cancers metastasize into the lungs, doctors do not consider them lung cancer. Only a cancer that starts in the lungs receives an official designation as lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Spreading to the Brain
If lung cancer spreads into the brain, doctors treat the lung cancer as the primary cancer diagnosis and the brain cancer as the secondary cancer diagnosis.
For between 20 and 40% of those diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, a secondary brain cancer will appear, according to the medical journal Current Oncology. Should the lung cancer metastasize in the brain, the patient faces a low chance of survival.
Lung Cancer Spreading Elsewhere
Lung cancer may spread to other parts of the body, too. Beyond the brain, some of the most common parts of the body where lung cancer metastasizes include:
- Nervous system
- Adrenal gland
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How Does Lung Cancer Spread?
So how can lung cancer spread to the brain? The cancer cells commonly will spread from the lungs to the brain through the body’s lymph vessels. If the cancer spreads this way, the cancer invades the brain slowly.
On the other hand, if the lung cancer spreads to the brain through blood cells (an uncommon occurrence), the cancer can grow quickly in the brain.
Symptoms of Cancer in the Brain
According to Healthline, if doctors diagnosed you with lung cancer, and you believe that it may be spreading to your brain, the following may appear:
- Loss of memory
- Lack of focus and attention
- Loss of reasoning ability
- General weakness and unsteadiness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Difficulty speaking or loss of speaking ability
- Numbness and tingling sensations
Because these symptoms also may fit with other illnesses, they do not absolutely mean your lung cancer has spread to the brain. However, if you experience any of these symptoms, you should check with your doctor immediately.
If the brain cancer turns aggressive, additional symptoms may include delirium, cranial nerve palsy, and decreased consciousness.
Screening for Cancer in the Brain
If your doctor suspects that your lung cancer may have spread to your brain, he or she may order some tests.
A CT scan creates cross-sectional images of various parts of the body, including the brain. This allows doctors to spot tumors or other abnormalities.
Additionally, a doctor may order an MRI or a biopsy to try to find signs of brain cancer.
Life Expectancy for Brain Cancer
Someone whose lung cancer spreads to the brain suffers a poor prognosis for recovery. Without successful treatments of the new cancer in the brain, the ill person can normally expect a survival rate of less than six months.
The earlier a doctor diagnoses someone with lung cancer that has metastasized into a secondary cancer in the brain, the better the chances of a favorable outcome.
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Protect Your Right to Seek Compensation
If your lung cancer diagnosis arose because of exposure to toxic chemicals, you should check your eligibility to receive awards for your injuries, pain, and suffering.
At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we do not shy away from tough cases. If someone else’s negligence exposed you to materials that led to your lung cancer diagnosis, the responsible party should pay for your medical treatment. Contact us today at (800) 794-0444 for a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis.