Canadian Cancer Society logo

Brain and spinal tumours

You are here: 

If brain and spinal cord cancer spreads

Cancer cells have the potential to spread from the brain and spinal cord to other parts of the body where they can grow into new tumours. This process is called metastasis. The tumours are also called metastasis (singular) or metastases (plural). Metastases are also called secondary tumours.

Brain and spinal cord tumours are different from most other types of cancer because they rarely spread (metastasize) outside the central nervous system (CNS) to other parts of the body. They spread locally and destroy normal tissue in the area where they begin, which in turn can interfere with essential functions of the brain and spinal cord.

  • Some types of brain tumours may spread from the brain to the cerebrospinal fluidcerebrospinal fluidThe fluid in the cavities in and around the brain and spinal cord that helps protect and cushion these organs. and the spine.
  • Spinal tumours spread locally, along and around the spine and spinal cord. They may also shed cancer cells into the CSF.

Understanding the usual progression of cancer helps the doctor to predict its probable course, plan treatment and anticipate further care.

Increased intracranial pressure (ICP) is a serious cancer-related problem that can occur because of brain and spinal cord cancer.


Woman at market in front of CCS poster This truly is a life-saving program, and we are so grateful to Husky Energy for making it happen.

Read more

Funding lifesaving clinical trials

Illustration of science instruments

The Canadian Cancer Society is funding lifesaving clinical trials that give people with cancer access to the newest types of treatment.

Learn more