What is the Paraneoplastic Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Definition: Paraneoplastic syndromes are disorders triggered by an abnormal immune system in response to the presence of a tumor.

They are non-metastatic effects that bother the entire body system even though the cancer is in only one area.

The frequency of paraneoplastic syndrome is only around 10 to 20 percent of all malignant tumors. Neurological paraneoplastic syndromes account for about 1 percent of people with cancer. The incidence of morbidity and mortality of these syndromes are not entirely known since there is no preference for certain races, sex, or ages of people.


The symptoms can be hematological, gastrointestinal, cutaneous, cardiovascular, muscular, or renal. Fever is the most common symptom of this type of syndrome, but many more maybe.


The causes of paraneoplastic syndromes are not known. Doctors believe that pyrogens trigger fever and alterations in the metabolism of copper and zinc, producing a bad taste in the mouth.

Weight loss is due to bioactive molecules secreted by tumor osteoarthritic symptoms and appears to be related to growth hormones. Autoimmune diseases can be associated with the production of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) that attack the connective tissue. Elevated erythropoietin levels seem to be related to developing a high red blood cell count. Anemia can result from internal hemorrhages and altered absorption of vitamins that contribute to the synthesis of red blood cells.


The diagnosis of paraneoplastic syndrome can be challenging since it can mimic many other diseases, so the index of suspicion must be high for the presence of cancers related to this syndrome. Certain liver enzymes may be elevated in this pathology, there may be no increase in albumin in the cerebrospinal fluid or the globulins, the tumor markers may be promoted, and the autoantibodies may be detected in the blood or tissue, where most will be directed towards the neural tissue.


Imaging studies can look for the presence of the tumor in a paraneoplastic syndrome, such as computed tomography or whole-body MRI. Metastases can also be found. Tissue biopsies can show the type of cancer in the body, which can be done with an ultrasound-guided endoscopy or needle biopsy.


The treatment of paraneoplastic syndromes begins with the management of underlying cancer. All the same treatment protocols are identified and used if a paraneoplastic syndrome is associated with cancer. Immunosuppressive agents are used as long as it is an autoimmune disease that works together with cancer.

Surgical treatment is directed to the underlying tumor. Some can be resolved without removing cancer, but this is not common. The extraction of thymus gland is extracted in specific paraneoplastic syndromes, such as myasthenia gravis.