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Paraneoplastic Syndromes

Paraneoplastic Syndromes Causes

The word "paraneoplastic" means that the illness is not caused directly by the carcinoma or by its metastases to other organs and tissues. Rather, paraneoplastic syndromes are caused by the immune system's reaction to the presence of the carcinoma or to substances produced by the cancerous mass. In the nervous system, these syndromes are commonly caused by cancer-fighting antibodies and T cells that the body activates to fight cancer. Instead of attacking only the cancer cells, the antibodies attack normal brain cells as well, thus resulting in a number of paraneoplastic syndromes.

Paraneoplastic Syndromes Definition

Paraneoplastic syndromes pertain to a range of rare diseases that develop in some cancer patients, most commonly in cases of lung, breast, or ovarian cancer. Paraneoplastic syndromes may occur in the skin, blood, kidneys, joints, and nervous system.

Paraneoplastic Syndromes Diagnosis

Paraneoplastic syndromes can be determined by testing the blood and spinal fluid for the presence of certain antibodies. Common methods used to diagnose paraneoplastic syndromes include: blood tests; spinal tap or lumbar puncture; radiology tests; and standard imaging tests.

Paraneoplastic Syndromes Symptoms and Signs

Symptoms of paraneoplastic syndromes often appear rapidly and progress over time. They may even manifest even before a cancer is diagnosed. Specific symptoms depend on the type of disorder, but common signs include: difficulty walking; loss of balance; swallowing problems; loss of muscle mass; loss of motor coordination; distorted speech; memory loss; vision problems; sleep disturbances; dementia; seizures; dizziness, and numbness and tingling in the limbs.

Paraneoplastic Syndromes Treatment

Treatment of paraneoplastic syndromes entails treating the cancer itself; or, on occasion, reducing or suppressing the immune response that produces the symptoms. Specific treatment will depend on the type of paraneoplastic syndrome present, and may include: cancer treatment; medication; plasmapheresis; intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg); and physical therapy.

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