Monitoring Brain Mets
Once you are diagnosed with brain metastases, you and your doctors will decide on a treatment plan. That plan will include regular tests. These tests are important because they show your doctors how well treatments are working and whether the tumors are shrinking, growing, or staying the same. Knowing this allows you and your doctor to continue making treatment decisions and managing side effects.
The brain has a protective filter called the blood-brain barrier that prevents substances that could hurt it from reaching it throughout your lifetime. But the filter is so strong that it also keeps some cancer medicines out. Still, when breast cancer grows in the brain, it typically breaks the blood-brain barrier. For this reason, medicines like chemotherapy or targeted therapies may be able to reach the tumor.
Your doctor may use some of the same imaging tests to monitor brain metastases that were used to diagnose them. The most commonly used test is an MRI, but you may also get CT scans. These tests create pictures of your brain. By comparing the pictures over time, doctors can see whether brain metastases are growing or shrinking, or changing in other ways.
How often you get which tests depends on your diagnosis and your doctor’s preferences. But it’s common for doctors to recommend imaging tests every 2-6 months. It’s also likely you will get tests if you switch to a new medicine, so that you can see how that new medicine is working.
Your doctor may also recommend additional tests if you experience new or more serious symptoms or side effects. Ask your doctor how often he or she recommends you have certain tests, and why.