Saturday, June 30, 2018 by Ralph Flores
Paraneoplastic disorders (also called paraneoplastic syndromes or PNS) are conditions that develop in some people who have cancer. The disorders are rare, as these are caused by hormones that are produced by the tumor or antibodies that circulate in the bloodstream and adversely affect tissues and organs not initially affected by the tumor. Some of the organs that can be affected by paraneoplastic disorders include the nervous system and the endocrine system, which can lead to complications like low blood sugar, changes in the nervous system, and even hypertension.
The condition is seen in 20 percent of people with cancer, with lung carcinoma being the most common condition related to paraneoplastic disorders. Other areas that are prone to be affected by the disorder include the kidneys, liver, blood (leukemia), lymph nodes (lymphoma), breast and ovary for women, the stomach, and the pancreas.
Known symptoms and risk factors of paraneoplastic disorders
The etiology of paraneoplastic disorders is unclear. However, some experts believe that the disorders are the result of the body’s altered immune response which is misdirected against the immune system.
There are multiple organ systems that are affected by paraneoplastic disorders; however, its general symptoms will often include fevers, night sweats, anorexia, and cachexia (muscle wasting due to chronic diseases). These could be caused by the release of cytokines associated with inflammation, as well as those involved in cell death like tumor necrosis factor-α.
Body systems affected by paraneoplastic disorders
If a person is affected by a paraneoplastic disorder, it can affect multiple organ systems in the body. These include the following:
- Rheumatologic. Paraneoplastic disorders lead to arthritis and polymyalgia, that is, the stiffness in the neck and other areas of the other body. Severe complications include scleroderma, a debilitating and life-threatening loss of tissue in the vascular system.
- Renal. The disorders can cause an array of diseases, which could include amyloidosis (a condition where an abnormal protein called amyloid is accumulated in the body), kidney damage, and chemical imbalance in the blood (i.e., the lack of potassium or abnormally high levels of phosphate).
- Gastrointestinal. Some complications that affect the gastrointestinal tract are watery diarrhea and the development of tumors in the sigmoid region and the thyroid area.
- Hematologic. Blood-related disorders include the presence of immature white blood cells in the bloodstream, anemia, and migrating blood clots in the bloodstream.
- Cutaneous. Complications that affect the skin include the presence of persistent itching, as well as skin conditions such as herpes zoster, alopecia, and hypertrichosis. If the paraneoplastic disorder is caused by skin cancer, it can manifest itself as blackish pigmentation of the skin.
- Endocrine. One of the most common complications of the paraneoplastic disorder is Cushing syndrome, that is, the abnormal production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This can be caused by the development of lung cancer.
- Neuromuscular. This complication is rare and will only affect around six percent of all patients with cancer. Some examples include muscle weakness and autoimmune reactions against the body’s own tissues, to name a few.
Food items or nutrients that may prevent paraneoplastic disorders
Information on diets that may prevent or treat paraneoplastic disorders is rare; however, supplementing a person’s diet with foods that boost the immune system could be helpful to increase resistance against paraneoplastic disorders, as well as other adverse conditions.
- Vitamin C is helpful in reducing the likelihood of being sick. Foods that are excellent sources of vitamin C are oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli.
- Vitamin B6, found in green leafy vegetables and in chickpeas, supports biochemical reactions that help the immune system.
- Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that wards off infection. Nuts, seeds, and spinach are rich in vitamin E.
Treatments, management options for paraneoplastic disorders
There are medical treatments that healthcare professionals may suggest to manage the condition; however, some changes in lifestyle could help the immune system, and possibly reduce diseases that impair it.
- Practicing good hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of infection. These include handwash after using the bathroom, covering the mouth during coughing or sneezing, and proper wound dressing.
- Proper food preparation methods can prevent food-borne diseases which can lead to serious conditions. Some examples include proper storage and preparation of raw meat, cooking food thoroughly, and handwash before and after handling raw food.
- Adequate travel preparation, which includes planning ahead, especially if going to areas where there is an outbreak or prone to certain conditions, can greatly reduce the risk of infections that affect the immune system.
- Clean water, especially when traveling, will ensure that a person will not be infected by disease-causing organisms present in certain areas.
Where to learn more
Paraneoplastic disorders are rare conditions that develop in some people who have cancer.
Paraneoplastic disorders are caused by hormones or antibodies that circulate in the bloodstream and adversely affect tissues and organs not initially affected by the tumor.
Paraneoplastic disorders, according to some experts, are the result of the body’s altered immune response which is misdirected against the immune system.
Paraneoplastic disorders affect multiple organ systems; however, its general symptoms will often include fevers, night sweats, anorexia, and cachexia.