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Metastatic Brain Tumors: Q&A with a Neurosurgeon

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Radiation therapy and neurosurgery are two of the best treatments for brain metastases.

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When doctors find a metastatic brain tumor, or brain metastasis, they move quickly. A brain metastasis is when cancer from elsewhere in the body spreads to the brain and forms another tumor.

You may feel overwhelmed as you’re shuttled from doctor to doctor, hearing treatment option after treatment option, uncertain about what comes next. Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Michael Lim, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Brain Tumor Center understands that reality, and he is exactly what you need.

He’s guided hundreds of patients through their treatment options using a step-by-step process to find the most effective treatment solution for each patient. The many patients he’s watched get back to their lives, some within weeks after treatment, are a testament to what’s possible.

Q. How do you control brain tumor symptoms?

A. Our first focus is to see if we can reverse any symptoms a patient is having. We often can. Surgery or radiation therapy can improve or get rid of symptoms in many cases. Common symptoms of brain metastasis include arm or leg weakness and problems talking.

Q. How do you weigh the pros and cons of each brain tumor treatment?

A. We consider the many factors that make every patient’s treatment unique before deciding on an action plan. The location of the tumor may mean that surgery is a great option — or a not-so-great one.

Along with benefits, we also consider the potential risks and side effects of any treatment. It’s very important for us to weigh the pros of a treatment’s possible benefits against the potential cons. 

Many patients are worried about the effects of radiation. Others hesitate about the idea of surgery. Tell your doctor about your concerns — they are important to consider. Here at Johns Hopkins, you are a full and active part of your care team.


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Q. How do you pick the best plan for the patient?

A. Radiation therapy and neurosurgery are two of the best treatment options for brain metastases today. At Johns Hopkins, you’ll have the best doctors on hand to guide you through.

Every metastatic brain tumor, and every patient, is different. The specialists at Johns Hopkins take the time to determine which treatment or combination of treatments will be the most effective for each person before moving forward. 

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