Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system are a group of rare disorders that develop in some people who have cancer. Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system are the most commonly reported paraneoplastic syndromes, but these syndromes can also affect other organ systems including hormone (endocrine), skin (dermatologic), blood (hematologic) and joints (rheumatologic).
Paraneoplastic events may also in part explain some of the most common symptoms of cancer, such as fatigue, loss of appetite for food (anorexia) and weight loss.
Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system occur when cancer-fighting agents of the immune system also attack parts of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves or muscle. Cancers commonly associated with these disorders include lung, breast and ovarian, as well as cancers of the blood. In most cases, paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system occur before a cancer is diagnosed.
Depending on the component of the nervous system affected, paraneoplastic syndromes can cause problems with muscle movement or coordination, sensory perception, memory or thinking skills, or even sleep.
Sometimes the injury to the nervous system is reversible with therapy directed toward the cancer and the immune system. However, these diseases can also rapidly result in severe damage to the nervous system which can't be reversed. Regardless, treatment of the underlying cancer and other interventions may prevent further damage, improve symptoms and give you a better quality of life.