13 11 20

Information and support

  • Get informed
  • Get support
  • Cut my risk
  • Get involved
  • Research
  • Prognosis for cancer of unknown primary



    Prognosis means the expected outcome of a disease. You may wish to discuss your prognosis and treatment options with your doctor, but it is not possible for any doctor to predict the exact course of your disease.

    To come up with your prognosis, your doctor will consider test results, the type of CUP you have, the rate and depth of tumour growth, how well you respond to treatment, and other factors such as your age, fitness and medical history.

    Although most cancers of unknown primary can’t be cured, treatment can keep some cancers under control for months or years. For example, some people with a localised deposit of CUP (e.g. in a lymph node in the neck) are able to achieve long-term control, or sometimes even a cure, with surgery or high-dose chemoradiation (a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy).

    Whatever the prognosis, palliative treatment can relieve symptoms such as pain to improve quality of life. It can be used at any stage of advanced cancer. 

    Which health professionals will I see?

    Once CUP has been diagnosed, you will be cared for by a range of health professionals who specialise in different aspects of your treatment. This is called a multidisciplinary team (MDT) and it may include some or all of the health professionals listed below. 

    The type of specialists in your MDT will depend on your symptoms and the presumed location of the primary cancer. For example, you may see a gastroenterologist (digestive tract, bowel or stomach), a gynaecologist (female reproductive system), a urologist (urinary tract or kidneys; male reproductive system), a respiratory physician or thoracic surgeon (chest/lung), or a haematologist (blood cells).

    This website page was last reviewed and updated February 2018

    Information reviewed by: A/Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Sarwan Bishnoi, Medical Oncologist, Adelaide Cancer Centre, SA; Dave Clark, Consumer; Dr Jan Maree Davis, Area Director, Palliative Care Service, Calvary Health Care and St George Hospital, NSW; Linda Tompsitt, Cancer Nurse 13 11 20, Cancer Council WA; Catherine Trevaskis, Gastrointestinal Cancer Specialist Nurse, The Canberra Hospital, ACT

    email Email