Recognize the Signs, Talk to Your Doctor [1, 2]
Patients often have symptoms from their primary cancers that can mask symptoms of brain metastases. In addition, patients can experience complications from both the primary cancer and the brain mets at the same time. It is important not to ignore warning signs and symptoms because early detection can mean a better chance at preserving normal brain function that can be affected by the brain metastases.
Symptoms will differ and depend on the size and location of the metastatic brain tumor(s). If you are experiencing one or more symptoms, let your doctor know how long you have been having them and how often they occur. Taking into consideration your existing condition and treatment regimen, your doctor will ask a series of questions designed to understand your symptoms. They may send you for images, or scans, to help diagnose whether you have metastases to the brain.
If you have these or other symptoms, discuss them with your doctor in the context of your primary cancer, overall health and medical history. In-office tests may be done, including assessment of reflexes, cognition (thinking / thought processing), sensations, muscle strength, alertness, etc. If these assessments require more testing, your neuro-oncologist or neurosurgeon may then send you for diagnostic imaging of the brain and additional parts of the body to figure out whether the primary cancer has spread elsewhere.
There are different scans that may be needed and a patient may need more than one scan to diagnose the tumor size and location and type. A few different types of scans and imaging techniques may be used to diagnose metastatic brain tumors.
Most Common Imaging Techniques
Other Potential Imaging Techniques
You have likely already undergone body scans for your primary condition. Discuss with your doctor or nurse, in detail, how the brain scans are similar and different from previous scans. Knowing where and when to go and how the scan works will help reassure you and better prepare you for the experience. Your doctor may even prescribe additional CT scans of your chest, abdomen and pelvis as well as a bone scan to detect any primary cancer elsewhere in the body.
If you are diagnosed with brain metastases, this will likely be the first of many brain scans that will happen during your treatment. It is wise to keep a history and a digital copy of all your scans to better inform the different medical teams that you may work with during your treatment.
 American Association of Neurological Surgeons
[2) American Brain Tumor Association