If you have cancer of unknown primary (CUP), you may have questions about your prognosis. A prognosis is the doctor’s best estimate of how cancer will affect a person and how it will respond to treatment. Prognosis and survival depend on many factors. Only a doctor familiar with your medical history, the type and characteristics of your cancer, treatments chosen and response to treatment can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.
A prognostic factor is an aspect of the cancer or a characteristic of the person that the doctor will consider when making a prognosis. The following are prognostic factors for CUP.
Doctors will decide if CUP is favourable risk or poor risk.
Favourable-risk CUP is identified based on where the cancer is found in the body and based on biopsy results. The following are considered favourable-risk CUP:
Poor-risk CUP includes all cancers that are not part of the favourable risk group. It includes poorly differentiated and undifferentiated tumours. These types of CUP do not respond as well to chemotherapy. Most people diagnosed with CUP have poor-risk disease.
The following factors indicate poor prognosis within poor-risk CUP:
Prognosis depends on where the cancer has spread, or metastasized, and how many different places it has spread to.
People who only have cancer in the lymph nodes have a better prognosis than people who have cancer in their internal organs (such as the liver or lungs).
People who have cancer in several different places (such as the liver, lungs and bone) have a poor prognosis.
People with cancer that has spread to several different parts of the brain have a poor prognosis.
People with cancer cells in a buildup of fluid in the abdomen (called malignant ascites) have a less favourable prognosis.
Performance status is a measure of how well a person can do ordinary tasks and carry out daily activities (such as bathing, dressing or walking). There are different performance status scales used, but generally the more active you are, the better your performance status.
A person diagnosed with CUP who has a good performance status has a more favourable prognosis than someone who has a poor performance status.
People diagnosed with CUP who have normal lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)An enzyme that is involved in energy production in cells. levels in their blood have a more favourable prognosis than people with high levels of LDH.
Women with CUP tend to have a more favourable prognosis than men with CUP.
Seeing my sister Erin – a young mother – struggle with the emotional blow and then the physical toll of cancer treatment made me want to do something to help women feel confident.
Thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers work in regional cancer centres, lodges and community hospitals to support people receiving treatment.