Important information

A person with a suspected cancer of unknown primary should be referred to a specialist who is a member of a relevant multidisciplinary team. 

All specialists listed on Canrefer are members of a multidisciplinary team.

 

What is cancer of unknown primary?

Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) is a term used when cancer has been diagnosed but the original (primary) place where the cancer started cannot be found. In people with a CUP, symptoms are caused by a cancer that has spread (metastatic cancer).

Approximately 5% of cancer diagnoses are cancers of unknown primary.

Graphic of a body with a question mark

 

What tests are needed?

Common tests used to diagnose cancer of unknown primary include:

  • physical examination
  • blood tests
  • urine and/or faeces tests
  • imaging - X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI scan and/or PET scan
  • biopsy
  • endoscopy.

 

What treatment options are there?

Treatment for cancer of unknown primary may include one or more of the following:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • targeted therapy
  • hormonal therapy
  • radiotherapy.

If treatment is specialised and complex, patients may need to travel to have a part of their treatment. The local health district will have an arrangement in place for this.

 

How common is cancer of unknown primary in NSW?

Cancer of unknown primary was diagnosed in:

  • 2014
    1041 people in NSW
  • 2013
    1101 people in NSW
  • 2012
    1087 people in NSW

Data source: Annual NSW cancer incidence and mortality dataset, 2014 (sourced from the NSW Cancer Registry)


Last updated: 20 September 2018