Overview

Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system are a group of uncommon disorders that develop in some people who have cancer. Paraneoplastic syndromes can also affect other organ systems including hormone (endocrine), skin (dermatologic), blood (hematologic) and joints (rheumatologic).

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.

Depending on where the nervous system is 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 that 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.

Paraneoplastic syndromes of the nervous system care at Mayo Clinic