Treatments for cancer of unknown primary

If you have cancer of unknown primary (CUP), your healthcare team will create a treatment plan just for you. It will be based on your needs and may include a combination of different treatments. When deciding which treatments to offer for CUP, your healthcare team will consider:

  • the type of CUP
  • the amount of differentiation of the cancer cells
  • whether it is favourable-risk or poor-risk CUP
  • where and how many different places cancer is found
  • prognosis
  • performance status
  • where the cancer may have started (called the primary site)
  • your overall health
  • your age
  • your preferences for treatment

Expert review and references

  • Fizazi K, Greco FA, Pavlidis N, et al . Cancers of unknown primary site: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Annals of Oncology. Oxford University Press; 2011.
  • Greco FA & Hainsworth JD . Cancer of unknown primary site. DeVita VT Jr, Lawrence TS, & Rosenberg SA. Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology. 10th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2015: 113:1720-1737.
  • Kim KW, Krajewski, KM, Jagannathan JP, et al . Cancer of unknown primary sites: what radiologists need to know and what oncologists want to know. AJR: American Journal of Roentgenology. The American Roentgen Ray Society; 2013.
  • National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Occult Primary (Cancer of Unknown Primary [CUP]) (Version 3.2014). http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/occult.pdf.
  • Stella GM, Senetta R, Cassenti A, Ronco M, & Cassoni P . Cancers of unknown primary origin: current perspectives and future therapeutic strategies. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2012: http://www.translational-medicine.com/content/10/1/12.

Treatments for adenocarcinoma of unknown primary

Treatments for adenocarcinoma of unknown primary depend on where cancer is found and where it may have started. Learn about treatment options.

Treatments for poorly differentiated carcinoma of unknown primary

Chemotherapy is used to treat poorly differentiated cancer of unknown primary. Learn about when chemotherapy is used and which chemotherapy drugs are used.

Treatments for squamous cell carcinoma of unknown primary

Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are often all used to treat squamous cell carcinoma of unknown primary. Learn more about how these treatments are used.

Treatments for neuroendocrine carcinoma of unknown primary

Chemotherapy is used to treat neuroendocrine tumours of unknown primary. Learn about the types of chemotherapy drugs that are used.

Treatments for undifferentiated tumours

Chemotherapy is used to treat undifferentiated tumours of unknown primary. Learn about the types of chemotherapy drugs used.

Chemotherapy for cancer of unknown primary

Chemotherapy is commonly used to treat cancer of unknown primary. Learn about which chemotherapy drugs are used and their side effects.

Radiation therapy for cancer of unknown primary

External beam radiation therapy is used to treat cancer of unknown primary (CUP). Learn how it is used and the side effects of radiation.

Hormonal therapy for cancer of unknown primary

Hormonal therapy is used to treat cancer of unknown primary (CUP) in some people. Learn when it is used and the side effects of hormonal therapy.

Surgery for cancer of unknown primary

Surgery is sometimes used to treat cancer of unknown primary (CUP). Learn about which surgeries are used and their side effects.

Targeted therapy for cancer of unknown primary

Targeted therapy is a new treatment for some types of cancer of unknown primary (CUP). Learn more about targeted therapy drugs and their side effects.

Follow-up after treatment for cancer of unknown primary

Follow-up after treatment for cancer of unknown primary (CUP) varies. Learn about follow-up appointments and tests or procedures that may be done.