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Although thiamine deficiency (TD) and Wernicke encephalopathy (WE) are not rare in cancer patients, the cases reported to date developed TD and/or WE after treatment had started.
From a series of cancer patients, we report a patient diagnosed with TD without the typical clinical symptoms of WE at the preoperative psychiatric examination.
A 43-year-old woman with ovarian cancer was referred by her oncologist to the psycho-oncology outpatient clinic for preoperative psychiatric evaluation. Her tumor had been growing rapidly before the referral. Although she did not develop delirium, cerebellar signs, or eye symptoms, we suspected she might have developed TD because of her 2-month loss of appetite as the storage capacity of thiamine in the body is approximately 18 days. The diagnosis of TD was supported by abnormally low serum thiamine levels.
Significance of results
Cancer therapists need to be aware that thiamine deficiency may occur even before the start of cancer treatment. In cases with a loss of appetite of more than 2 weeks’ duration, in particular, thiamine deficiency should be considered if the tumor is rapidly increasing, regardless of the presence or absence of delirium.
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