A paraneoplastic syndrome is more of an autoimmune disorder that arises as a result of the immune’s response to the presence of cancer in the body. As a way of fighting against cancer, your immune system prompts the release of proteins, only made in the brain, which causes the body to produce antibodies to fight cancer. The same antibodies can trigger an autoimmune attack on the brain, as well as the neurological system, causing paraneoplastic syndromes. As much as such a disorder is most common in patients with cancer, it is possible that even those without any identifiable tumor may develop a paraneoplastic syndrome. There are several types of paraneoplastic syndromes, with the most common being Paraneoplastic Cerebral Degeneration, Eaton-Lambert Syndrome, Opsoclonus Myoclonus Syndrome, and Paraneoplastic Limbic Encephalitis.[1]

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Can You Die From Paraneoplastic Syndrome?

Paraneoplastic syndromes are rare, even in patients with cancer. Medically speaking, the estimated occurrence of any paraneoplastic syndromes in patients with cancer is less than 1 percent. However, in some forms of cancer, the likelihood of paraneoplastic syndromes is higher, and lower in others. The incidence of death in patients with paraneoplastic syndrome is unknown, but it may result from underlying cancer. Additionally, death may occur from any irreversible damage done to the body due to the neurological implication of the condition. for example, acute heart failure or kidney failure. Also, the paraneoplastic pemphigus infection is a major cause of death, as per review on patients with these disorders.[2] [3]

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Most patients with paraneoplastic syndromes make a good recovery, provided treatment is administered accordingly. In a case where 14 patients with paraneoplastic opsoclonus-myoclonus, while 8 of the patients recovered, 5 of the other 6 died. This was as a result of their tumor not being treated and died despite being treated with steroids, intravenous lg, or plasma exchange due to the neurological condition. [4] Another death incidence is in a patient who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer together with multiple liver metastases. The patient was treated with a long-acting somatostatin analogue and prednisone, which lead to a reduction in chromogranin A level. Despite showing slight neurological improvement, seven months later after onset of symptoms, he was no more as a result of neurological impairment.[5]

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What Is The Life Expectancy?

For patients with paraneoplastic syndromes, there are many variables affecting influencing their life expectancy. These variables may include; age, the type of underlying cancer as well as the resultant paraneoplastic syndrome, pre-existing health conditions, and the success of treatment for underlying cancer. So, it is impossible to give an exact average life expectancy. Regardless, from several small-scale research studies conducted on the matter have suggested that the average life expectancy lies between 2-3 years. But it is important to remember that people react differently to ailments. While there are those who may succumb to the condition in less than the estimated life expectancy, there are those who leave beyond the same life expectancy. As a matter of fact, there are those who’ve survived for over 10 years since the onset of neurological symptoms.[1]

The Prognosis Of Paraneoplastic Syndromes

The prognosis for paraneoplastic syndromes varies greatly depending on the patient and the form of the syndrome they have. For individuals who develop intravascular coagulation have a poor prognosis compared to those with hypertrophic osteoarthropathy, who have a more favorable prognosis. Most paraneoplastic syndromes resolve spontaneously including limbic encephalitis, subacute cerebral degeneration, and paraneoplastic opsoclonus-myoclonus. But, generally speaking, neurological improvement is more likely when treatment for paraneoplastic syndromes is paired with the treatment of the underlying tumor.[3] [4]

Conclusion

Death is imminent to everyone, but in cases of, say, serious body degrading conditions such as cancers and paraneoplastic syndromes, death may come sooner than expected. Many patients who have been diagnosed with paraneoplastic syndromes have developed lifelong neurological impairment, and others have died, either from the neurological symptoms of paraneoplastic syndromes or from the tumor itself. There is no exact life-expectancy for the paraneoplastic syndrome, but that does not mean you cannot survive it for as long as possible.

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Sheetal DeCaria MD

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

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Last Modified On: July 8, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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