Most people with paraneoplastic syndrome experience neurological problems before having any indication of cancer or receiving a cancer diagnosis. Therefore, you're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor about your symptoms. You may then be referred to a specialist in nervous system disorders (neurologist) or a cancer specialist (oncologist).
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- What diagnostic tests will you order? Do I need to prepare for these tests?
- Which specialists will I need to see?
- How soon am I likely to complete the tests and get results?
- What are you looking for in the tests?
- What conditions are you trying to rule out?
Questions from your doctor
Your doctor may ask the following questions:
- Have you had any muscle weakness or lack of coordination?
- Have you had any unusual or involuntary muscle movements?
- Have you had any vision problems?
- Do you have any problems chewing, swallowing or speaking?
- Do you have any difficulty breathing?
- Have you had any seizures? How long have they lasted?
- Have you experienced dizziness or nausea?
- Do you have trouble sleeping, or have your sleep patterns changed?
- Are you having difficulty performing everyday tasks with your hands?
- Have you had any numbness or tingling in your limbs?
- Have you had a significant change in mood?
- Have you been seeing or hearing things that others are not aware of?
- Have you had any memory problems?
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Have your symptoms become worse?
- Have you been diagnosed with cancer?
- What medications do you take, including over-the-counter drugs and dietary supplements? What are the daily dosages?
- Have any close relatives had cancer? If so, what types of cancer?
- Have you ever smoked?
- Do you or does anyone in your family have some form of autoimmune disease?
Aug. 16, 2017
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- Dalmau J, et al. Paraneoplastic syndromes affecting the spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 28, 2016.
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- Longo DL, et al., eds. Paraneoplastic neurologic syndromes and autoimmune encephalitis. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill Education; 2015. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Nov. 29, 2016.
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Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system