Introduction: Cerebral metastases occur in 15 to 20% of cancers and their incidence is increasing. The majority occur at an advanced stage of the disease, but metastasis may be the inaugural sign of cancer. The aim of treatments, which are often palliative, is to preserve the neurological status of the patient with the best quality of life.
State of art: Corticosteroids are widely used for symptomatic palliation, requiring close monitoring and regular dose adaptation. Antiepileptic drugs should be given only for patients who have had a seizure. In case of multiple cerebral metastases occurring at an advanced stage of the disease, whole brain radiation is the most effective therapy for rapid symptom control. However, radiotherapy moderately improves overall survival, which often depends on the progression of disseminated systemic disease. On the contrary, surgery is indicated in case of a solitary metastasis, particularly when the patient is young (less than 65 years), with good general status (Karnofsky greater than 70), and when the systemic disease is under control. Radiosurgery offers an attractive alternative for these patients with good prognostic factors and a small number of cerebral metastases (< or = 4).
Perspectives: Chemotherapy, considered in the past as not effective, is taking on a more important place in patients with multiple nonthreatening metastases from chemosensitive cancers (breast, testes...). Radiosurgery and whole brain radiotherapy are complementary techniques. Their respective role in the management of multiple metastases (< 4) remains to be further investigated.
Conclusions: Therapeutic options are increasingly effective to improve the functional prognosis of patients with cerebral metastases. Ideally, a multidisciplinary assessment offers the best choice of therapeutic modalities.