What are the risks of metastases to the brain with colon cancer?

Last Modified: February 2, 2003

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My diagnosis is Stage III colon cancer. Lately I have been having severe headaches and have had no previous history of headaches. My question is whether or not there could be a connection. I have been told that the liver is the next target of colorectal cancer, but I'm wondering if colorectal cancer can metastasize to the brain? Thanks for your response.  

Answer

Timothy C. Hoops, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Gastroenterology Division at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of Gastroenterology at Penn Medicine at Radnor, responds:

The question you are asking is "What are the risks of metastases to the brain with colon cancer?" The first caveat to any answer is that anything can and probably has happened at some time. However, more specifically, brain metastases from colon cancer are uncommon. This is particularly true if there are no liver or lung metastases. Liver is generally the first site that one sees spread of the disease. Lung is the next most common area that the cancer can go to. After that it can move to a number of organs. However, as I stated, it would be very unusual for one to have involvement of other organs in the absence of liver and lung metastases. That being said, I would recommend that you see your primary physician or oncologist for evaluation. They can then determine whether it would be necessary to get a CT scan or an MRI of the head.

I hope this answers your question. I wish you the best of luck.