Paraneoplastic syndrome (patient information)

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Paraneoplastic syndrome


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?


When to seek urgent medical care?

Treatment options

Where to find medical care for (Condition)?


What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1];Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Gertrude Djouka, M.D.[2]


A paraneoplastic syndrome is a disease or symptom that is the consequence of the presence of cancer in the body, but is not due to the local presence of cancer cells. These phenomena are mediated by humoral factors (by hormones or cytokines) excreted by tumor cells or by an immune response against the tumor. Sometimes the symptoms of paraneoplastic syndromes show even before the diagnosis of a malignancy. A paraneoplastic syndrome is a set of symptoms that are caused by a cancer. The symptoms happen in a different area of your body from your cancer.


What are the symptoms of paraneoplastic syndromes?

General symptoms

Skin symptoms

  • Skin flushing or blushing, causing your face, neck, or upper chest to become warm and red.

Neurologic (brain, spinal cord, and nerve) symptoms

  • Trouble using different parts of your body the way you want, such as your arms or legs
  • Double vision (when you see two of the same object) or being unable to control your eye movements

The cancer can cause these symptoms without pushing on your nerves or spinal cord.

Endocrine (hormone system) symptoms

Other symptoms

  • Muscle swelling that causes weakness and soreness
  • Painful swelling of your joints that may change the shape of your fingers and toes
  • Changes to your blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets)


  • There are no cures for paraneoplastic syndromes. The type and stage of the diagnosis of the cancer determine the prognosis.