Paraneoplastic Syndrome: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 7/13/2018

Paraneoplastic syndrome is a group of symptoms caused by a substance that is produced by a tumor or in reaction to a tumor (see the causes section below for more information). A number of different types of paraneoplastic syndrome can occur, depending upon the substances produced by the tumor. The symptoms produced can involve different organs and organ systems, including the endocrine, neuromuscular or musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, cutaneous, hematologic, gastrointestinal, or renal systems. Therefore, paraneoplastic syndromes can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Fever is a common manifestation of many paraneoplastic syndromes, along with loss of appetite and wasting (cachexia). Other symptoms and signs depend upon the specific organ system.

Paraneoplastic syndrome causes

Paraneoplastic syndrome is caused by substances that circulate through the bloodstream that are either made by a tumor or are made in reaction to the tumor. It is not caused by the tumor itself, nor is it caused by compression, infection, or treatment of the tumor. The substances that cause paraneoplastic syndrome may be hormones or other biologically active products produced by the tumor, substances that block the actions of normal hormones, substances that trigger an autoimmune response, or substances that lead to immune-complex production or immunosuppression.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Santacroce, Luigi. "Paraneoplastic Syndromes." Dec. 23, 2017. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/13/2018

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Cancer Report Newsletter

By clicking "Submit," I agree to the MedicineNet Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time.