Supportive care for cancer of unknown primary

Supportive care helps people meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of cancer of unknown primary (CUP). It is an important part of cancer care. There are many programs and services available to help meet the needs and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer and their loved ones, especially after treatment has ended.

You may want to talk to your healthcare team about the following.

Living with advanced cancer

Because CUP has already spread when it is diagnosed, it is considered an advanced cancer. A diagnosis of advanced cancer can be very hard to understand and accept. You may have many strong feelings about your diagnosis, including shock, sadness, anger and fear. You may also worry about your prognosis.

People who are diagnosed with CUP are often referred to a palliative care team. Palliative care provides physical, emotional, social and spiritual support for people with cancer and their families. The purpose of palliative care is not to cure the cancer. It relieves symptoms, controls the cancer, if possible, and improves your quality of life.

Find out more about living with advanced cancer.


Some, but not all, people with CUP have pain. Pain related to cancer can affect you both physically and emotionally. Pain can cause fatigue, loss of appetite and problems sleeping. Dealing with pain also takes energy that your body needs to cope with cancer and carry out normal daily activities.

Pain related to cancer or its treatments can usually be controlled. Your healthcare team can help you find ways to prevent, manage or relieve your pain.

Find out more about pain.


Fatigue is a general lack of energy, tiredness or exhaustion. Many people diagnosed with CUP have fatigue. It can greatly affect your day-to-day activities and quality of life. Talk to your healthcare team about ways that can help you cope with fatigue.

Find out more about fatigue.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about supportive care after treatment.

Expert review and references