Oncologist-approved cancer information from the American Society of Clinical Oncology
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Unknown Primary

This section has been reviewed and approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 4/2013
Symptoms and Signs

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. To see other pages in this guide, use the colored boxes on the right side of your screen, or click “Next” at the bottom.

Since CUP can appear anywhere in the body, the initial symptoms can vary. Usually, symptoms are related to the area where the cancer is found, most commonly the liver, lungs, bones, or lymph nodes.

People with CUP may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with CUP do not show any of these symptoms. Or, these symptoms may be caused by a medical condition that is not cancer. If you are concerned about a symptom or sign on this list, please talk with your doctor.         

  • Long-lasting pain in a specific area of the body
  • Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • A cough or hoarseness that doesn’t go away
  • Thickening or lump in any part of the body
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Unusual bleeding or discharge
  • Recurring fever or night sweats

Your doctor will ask you questions about the symptoms you are experiencing to help find out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis. This may include how long you’ve been experiencing the symptom(s) and how often.

Even when the primary site cannot be found, a patient’s signs and symptoms can often help the doctor plan effective treatment. Careful evaluation and testing of the tumor tissue removed during the biopsy (see Diagnosis) can sometimes give clues about where the tumor began. Also, finding where the cancer has spread can help decide which treatments are most appropriate.

If cancer is diagnosed, relieving symptoms and side effects remains an important part of cancer care and treatment. This may also be called symptom management, palliative care, or supportive care. Be sure to talk with your health care team about symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

Choose “Next” (below, right) to continue reading this guide to learn about what tests and scans you may have to learn more about the cause of your symptoms. Or, use the colored boxes located on the right side of your screen to visit any section.

© 2005-2014 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). All rights reserved worldwide.

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