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The most common origins of brain metastasis include primary cancers of the lungs

By Michael Bartlett

Posted on May 07th, 2020

Lung cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is called metastatic lung cancer, despite where it has spread. Lung cancer that metastasizes to the brain is still considered lung cancer, not brain cancer. This type of metastatic cancer is common in an advanced stage of lung cancer.

Cancer develops when genes within normal cells mutate as they divide, becoming cancerous. These cancer cells continue to multiply until they eventually form a tumor. As the tumor gets bigger, it requires more space and begins to cause pressure on the surrounding structures. It can also grow into body structures nearby. This stage is the start of metastatic cancer.

Once cancerous cells make their way to other parts of the body, they continue to reproduce, eventually forming secondary tumors. No matter where secondary tumors develop, the cancer is still classified as the original type of tumor.

How asbestos fibers cause lung cancer

Lung cancer involves the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the lining of the bronchi and other parts of the lungs. The earliest symptom is the development of a persistent cough and advanced symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, and general weakness.

Lung cancer has been long associated with exposure to asbestos, which was largely used in many industrial materials and equipment through the 1980s. During repair, maintenance, or other activities, asbestos fibers can become airborne and can easily be inhaled, causing scarring and inflammation in the lungs as they accumulate. Lung scarring contributes to the development of cancer.

Lung cancer is known to spread to the brain in about 40 percent of patients in whom metastasis has occurred. Metastasis is the medical term used to describe cancer which has spread beyond the initial tumor to nearby or distant lymph nodes, tissue, and organs.

Pulmonary cancer caused by asbestos is difficult to diagnose, largely because of the long latency period associated with the disease

If the site of the primary cancer is not found, it is called "unknown" primary site or "occult" primary cancer. This can happen for example when secondary cancer - brain cancer has grown very quickly, while primary cancer - lung cancer - was not found because many patients don't experience symptoms or symptoms are subtle and don't usually become noticeable until the cancer is in its advanced stages.

An overwhelming majority of patients diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer were typically exposed to asbestos during their military service or in the workplace, and it took decades for their cancer to develop. Asbestos-related lung cancer has a long latency period; it typically takes between 10 to 40 years from the moment of exposure to the onset of symptoms.

Because symptoms are generally vague and can be easily confused with other illnesses such as bronchitis, pneumonitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, early detection of asbestos-related lung cancer is often difficult. If symptoms are ignored or the condition is misdiagnosed the patient may not receive appropriate treatment until cancer has progressed to an advanced stage. For this reason, it is important to seek prompt medical attention, especially if you have a history of exposure to asbestos and you're experiencing increasing shortness of breath and persistent cough.

The main investigation for suspected asbestos-related pulmonary cancer is a chest X-ray, but it's important to note that X-rays cannot detect asbestos fibers in the lungs; they can help identify typical asbestos-related radiographic abnormalities such as pleural plaques, increased opacities consistent with fibrosis or/and pulmonary lesions. Once lung cancer has been diagnosed, a careful evaluation will be made to determine how far the cancer has spread.

Primary lung cancer vs. metastatic brain cancer

Lung cancer can spread when cancer cells break off from the primary tumor, and travel through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, and form new tumors in other parts of the body. Metastatic brain tumors can grow rapidly, crowding and destroying nearly brain tissue.

Metastatic brain cancer has the same type of cancer cells as the primary cancer. Some metastatic brain tumors appear many years after primary cancer, and others metastasize so quickly that they are identified before the original cancer. The symptoms of a metastatic brain tumor are the same as those of the primary brain tumor, and are related to the location of the tumor within the brain. A metastatic brain tumor is usually found when a cancer patient begins to experience neurological symptoms such as:

  • Seizures
  • Headaches
  • Vision problems
  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • Behavior and personality changes
  • Memory loss and confusion

Primary pleural mesothelioma vs. metastatic brain cancer

Mesothelioma is a relatively rare and aggressive type of cancer exclusively caused by inhaling asbestos fibers into the lungs. While lung cancer develops in the lung itself, pleural mesothelioma usually develops in the lining of the lung. Although mesothelioma and lung cancer are different diseases that require entirely different treatment approaches, they have some similarities such as:

  • Both are types of cancer that affect the lungs and the chest
  • Both have similar diagnostic procedures
  • Both can develop after exposure to asbestos
  • Both lead to difficulty breathing and chest pain
  • Metastatic brain tumors can result from both mesothelioma and lung cancer

As it advances, pleural mesothelioma can spread to lymph nodes and the lung tissue itself on the same side of the chest, the tissue and muscle of the chest wall, as well as it can have distant metastasis to the brain. When pleural mesothelioma spreads to the brain, it is known as a secondary brain tumor, as the original cancer is in the lungs.

Priority will be placed on ensuring and expediting compensation for terminally ill claimants

Caring for a loved one with lung cancer that has spread to the brain can be a unique challenge. As the treatment can be exceptionally expensive because of the multitude of medical interventions needed as part of patients' care, it is important to find support and financial resources available to you and your loved one. If you have been exposed to asbestos and later diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer or mesothelioma, certain legal options and other forms of financial compensation might be available to you and your family.

Most patients with brain metastases have a life expectancy of fewer than 6 months without treatment; with treatment, that number can increase slightly. For this reason, it is best to get legal advice and act as early as possible. Provided that you initiate an asbestos claim in your lifetime, it will continue even if you die before it is finalized.

We understand that metastatic lung cancer already causes a great deal of emotional strain on you, and there can be additional physical difficulties related to the illness. For this reason, a family member can opt for an expedited review of your asbestos compensation claim, if she/he contacts us today.