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Bizarre Case of Paraneoplastic Syndrome: Breast Cancer Mimics Stroke Symptoms

Paraneoplastic syndromes are uncommon disorders arising when the immune system mistakenly reacts to cancerous tumors, known as “neoplasms.” These syndromes typically affect middle-aged or older adults and are often associated with lung, ovarian, lymphatic, or breast cancer. They frequently manifest before the tumor’s detection, presenting diverse neurological symptoms that may mimic other conditions, including stroke.

Paraneoplastic syndromes encompass a broad array of symptoms, such as difficulty walking or swallowing, loss of muscle tone, slurred speech, memory loss, vision problems, sleep disorders, dementia, seizures, sensory loss in the limbs, vertigo, or dizziness. Specific syndromes within this category include Lambert-Eaton Myasthenic Syndrome, Stiff-Person Syndrome, Encephalomyelitis, Myasthenia Gravis, Cerebellar Degeneration, Limbic or Brainstem Encephalitis, Neuromyotonia, Opsoclonus, and Sensory Neuropathy.

Paraneoplastic Syndrome: Recent Case Study 2

In a recent medical case, a 43-year-old housewife from Kolkata experienced stroke-like symptoms, including difficulty walking, slurred speech, and headaches, raising concerns about a cerebrovascular event. Despite undergoing multiple imaging tests such as MRI and CT scans, no significant abnormalities were found in her brain. However, as her condition deteriorated, further investigations revealed the presence of an Anti-Yo antibody, also known as anti-Parkinson antibody, indicating a rare condition called Paraneoplastic Cerebellar Degeneration (PCD).

Bizarre Case of Paraneoplastic Syndrome: Breast Cancer Mimics Stroke Symptoms

Figure 1: Image of the patient’s breast upon admission

PCD is an exceptionally rare condition characterized by the immune system’s attack on the cerebellum and nervous system, triggered by cancer cells releasing chemicals that disrupt normal neurological function. While breast cancer is a relatively common malignancy, PCD as a paraneoplastic syndrome associated with breast cancer is exceedingly rare, with fewer than a hundred reported cases documented in medical literature. The association between breast cancer and stroke-like symptoms underscores the importance of considering paraneoplastic syndromes in the differential diagnosis of neurological presentations, especially when conventional imaging studies fail to reveal typical stroke-related abnormalities.

Treatment and Recovery 2

Following the diagnosis of PCD, the patient underwent breast cancer surgery at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Cancer Hospital, Kolkata. The surgical team successfully performed the procedure, and the anesthesia team ensured her safety throughout the surgery. Post-surgery, the patient is on the path to recovery, with ongoing monitoring and management of both the cancer and neurological symptoms.

Implications and Management 2

Paraneoplastic syndromes, although uncommon in breast cancer cases, underscore the complex interplay between cancer and the immune system, leading to diverse clinical manifestations. Early diagnosis of these syndromes is crucial, as prompt treatment, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and surgery, can improve outcomes and alleviate symptoms. Moreover, healthcare professionals need to maintain a high index of suspicion for paraneoplastic syndromes in patients presenting with neurological symptoms, particularly when conventional imaging studies fail to reveal significant abnormalities.

Conclusion 1,2

The case study mentioned above sheds light on the significance of timely identification and management of paraneoplastic syndromes, such as PCD, which can arise as potential complications of breast cancer. Despite being a rare occurrence, PCD can present with symptoms similar to those of stroke, which necessitates a comprehensive evaluation and multidisciplinary approach involving oncologists, neurologists, and other specialists. By increasing awareness and understanding of these syndromes, healthcare providers can facilitate early diagnosis and appropriate treatment, significantly improving patient outcomes and quality of life. Therefore, healthcare professionals need to remain vigilant and consider all possible differential diagnoses in patients with a history of cancer who present with neurological symptoms.


References

  1. Paraneoplastic Syndromes [Internet]. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Available from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/paraneoplastic-syndromes#:~:text=What%20are%20paraneoplastic%20syndromes%3F
  2. Rare case of Paraneoplastic Syndrome: Breast cancer mimics stroke symptoms, shows post-operation improvement. The Times of India [Internet]. 2024 Feb 6 [cited 2024 Feb 9]; Available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/science/rare-case-of-paraneoplastic-syndrome-breast-cancer-mimics-stroke-symptoms-shows-post-operation-improvement/articleshow/107467460.cms

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