Paraneoplastic sensorimotor neuropathy associated with breast cancer

J Neurooncol. 1994;21(2):159-70. doi: 10.1007/BF01052900.


Paraneoplastic sensorimotor neuropathy occurs in association with many different types of cancer. The clinical findings are heterogeneous, and the pathogenesis is unknown. We have encountered 9 women with breast cancer and shared neurological features that suggest a distinct paraneoplastic syndrome. The syndrome is characterized by upper and lower extremity paresthesias and numbness, itching, muscle weakness and cramps, and in some, radicular symptoms and signs. Serum and CSF inflammatory changes suggested an immune pathogenesis but none had detectable antibodies directed at nervous system elements. Six patients presented with neuropathy 2 months to 8 years before the discovery of the breast cancer. In 7 the neoplastic disease was localized to the breast and axillary lymph nodes. The neurologic course was chronic in all, and while symptoms were annoying, disability was minimal until late. One improved transiently with plasmapheresis, and three had mild transient improvement with treatment of the cancer. Recognition of this paraneoplastic syndrome may forewarn the physician of an underlying breast malignancy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / complications
  • Adenocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ataxia / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / complications
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / diagnosis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypesthesia / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Cramp / etiology
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / blood
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes / etiology*
  • Paresthesia / etiology
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / blood
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Pruritus / etiology