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Living with a CUP diagnosis

When you are first diagnosed with CUP, and throughout the different stages of treatment, you may experience a range of emotions. You may also find that some people are supportive, but others don’t know what to say to you. This can be difficult and leave you feeling confused and upset.

Many people with CUP find it hard to believe that the primary cancer can’t be located. The “unknown” aspect of the disease can make them feel scared and lonely, as well as frustrated when they are looking for information and support.

For many people with CUP, the cancer cannot be cured. Talking to your health care team can help you understand your situation and plan for your future care. Palliative treatments may stop the cancer growing and allow you to continue doing the things you enjoy for months or even several years.

It may help to talk about your feelings. Your partner and your family members and friends can be good sources of support, or you might prefer to talk to members of your treatment or palliative care team; a social worker, psychologist or counsellor; or your spiritual adviser.

Cancer Council 13 11 20 can help you connect with other people who are living with advanced cancer, and provide you with information about the emotional and practical aspects of living with CUP.

Download our booklet ‘Living with Advanced Cancer’

Being diagnosed with CUP can be stressful. It is natural to have a wide variety of emotions, including anxiety, anger, fear, sadness and resentment. These feelings may become stronger over time as you adjust to the side effects of treatment.

Everyone has their own ways of coping. There is no right or wrong way. It is important to give yourself time to deal with the emotions that a cancer diagnosis can cause.

If you have continued feelings of sadness, have trouble getting up in the morning or have lost motivation to do things that previously gave you  pleasure, you may be experiencing depression. This is quite common among people who have cancer.

If you think you may be depressed or feel that your emotions are affecting your day-to-day life, talk to your GP. Counselling or medication – even for a short time – may help. Some people can get a Medicare rebate for sessions with a psychologist. Cancer Council SA operates a free counselling program. Call Cancer Council 13 11 20 for more information.

For information about coping with depression and anxiety, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit For 24-hour crisis support, call Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit

A cancer diagnosis can affect every aspect of your life and may create practical and financial issues. There are many sources of support to help you, your family and carers navigate the cancer experience. These include benefits and programs to ease the financial impact; home care services; aids and appliances; support groups; and counselling services.

Availability of services may vary depending on where you live, and some services will be free but others might have a cost. For more information, talk to the social worker or nurse at your hospital or treatment centre, or get in touch with Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Featured resources

Cancer of Unknown Primary - Your guide to best cancer care

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Understanding Cancer of Unknown Primary

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last updated September 2022 by the following expert content reviewers: Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, and Director, Clinical Research in Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Amey Aurangabadkar, Radiologist, Illawarra Radiology Group, NSW; Clare Brophy, Consumer; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Wendy Cooper, Senior Staff Specialist, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, NSW Health Pathology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Chloe Georgiou, Oncology Research Fellow, Australian Rare Cancer Portal, and Oncology Trials Fellow, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.