Paraneoplastic syndrome includes symptoms accompanying cancer that are not caused by the malignancy itself, such as suppressive tumor growth or destruction of normal tissue by tumor or metastasis.
Cause: The body’s defense reaction
The cause of paraneoplastic syndrome may be the body’s defense response that cancer causes. On the other hand, symptoms can be caused by tumor-released transport substances such as cytokines and hormones.
Examples of cancers in which paraneoplasia is more common are:
- pancreatic cancer
- blood cancer (leukemia)
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
- liver cancer
- lung cancer
- stomach cancer
- kidney cell cancer
Symptoms: fever and night sweats
Common symptoms of paraneoplasia are:
- night sweats
- appetite and weight loss
- severe exhaustion and lethargy.
Other symptoms usually appear in the nervous system, skin or blood.
Skin symptoms: itching and redness
Itching is common in cancer patients. Redness is also a symptom. Skin conditions such as shingles can also occur.
Cushing’s syndrome is a typical consequence of paraneoplasia
If tumors trigger excessive production of hormones such as insulin, glucagon or adrenaline or norepinephrine, this can have far-reaching consequences for blood sugar and blood pressure. Cushing’s syndrome is a typical consequence of hormone-induced paraneoplasia: A tumor, such as in the lungs or pancreas, produces too much adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone in turn stimulates the production of cortisol in the adrenal glands, which increases the level of cortisol in the blood. The result can be, among other things, water retention in the legs, weakness and weight gain.
“Paraneoplasia: Injuries and nerve diseases
Paraneoplasia often leads to nerve reactions and other consequences:
- Decreased reflexes and feelings and weakness are typical symptoms of polyneuropathy. Peripheral nerves are affected. Another form of polyneuropathy is subacute sensory neuropathy: This disease results in impaired coordination and loss of sensitivity.
- Stiffness syndrome is a rare, complex autoimmune inflammatory disease of the central nervous system and endocrine glands.
- Subacute cerebellar degeneration can destroy the cerebellum. Typical causes are coordination problems, speech problems and dizziness.
- In subacute motor neuropathy, nerve cells in the spinal cord are damaged and the movement of the arms and legs is affected.
- Severe muscle weakness is typical of Eaton-Lambert syndrome, nerves and muscles can no longer be activated sufficiently.
Therapy: Cancer treatment
Paraneoplastic syndrome is caused by cancer. This needs to be addressed. There are usually three therapies used for this:
- Surgery (tumor removal)
If paraneoplastic syndrome causes life-threatening derailment, eg in metabolism, this should be treated in parallel.
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