Brain and Spine Tumor Center
Lifespan Cancer Institute

Paraneoplastic Neurologic Disorders

Paraneoplastic neurologic disorders are a group of syndromes caused by the immune system’s response to a tumor in the body. Symptoms can be wide-ranging and may depend on the type and location of cancer. Sometimes symptoms may indicate a paraneoplastic disorder is present prior to the discovery of any cancer. The initial test for identifying this condition is usually a blood test that attempts to identify the indicative antibody. When found, certain antibodies can help focus the search for specific malignancies.

Overall, the symptoms of paraneoplastic neurologic disorders can be varied, involve multiple parts of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves), and could include:

  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Ataxia and gait difficulties
  • Movement disorders like parkinsonism or chorea
  • Peripheral nerve injury
  • Myoclonus (muscle jerking)
  • Opsoclonus (unusual eye movements)
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Psychiatric abnormalities (hallucinations, depression, paranoia, anxiety)

Learn more about the management of side effects at the Brain and Tumor Center