Paraneoplastic syndromes are neurological disorders that arise as the "remote effect" of a cancer that does not directly involve the nervous system. The underlying cause of such syndromes is not certain, but it is theorized that these syndromes arise as a result of the body launching an immunological attack against the cells of the nervous system. It is thought that the presence of systemic cancer causes antibodies to be made against the tumor cells. Some of these antibodies, however, become directed against nerve cells, thus giving rise to the host of diseases which constitute the paraneoplastic syndromes. Paraneoplastic syndromes are very rare.
The types of syndromes resulting from the remote effects of cancer are varied and only the major ones are discussed here:
Most paraneoplastic syndromes do not require treatment in a neuro-ICU. However, in some cases, paraneoplastic encephalomyelitis, limbic encephalitis, and neuropathy may be severe enough to be life threatening. These instances are extremely rare. Three general strategies can be undertaken to treat these disorders:
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