Canadian Cancer Society logo

Cancer of unknown primary

You are here: 

Symptoms of cancer of unknown primary

Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) can cause different signs and symptoms depending on where the cancer is in the body. The general signs or symptoms of cancer of unknown primary are often the same as those found in people with advanced cancer from a known type of cancer. Other health conditions can cause the same symptoms as CUP.

The general symptoms of CUP include:

  • unexplained weight loss
  • unexplained fatigue
  • loss of appetite

CUP usually causes specific signs and symptoms depending on where the cancer has spread and which organs it affects. These symptoms include:

  • a lymph node in the neck, under the arm or in the groin that is larger than normal, or enlarged (the lymph node usually isn’t sore or tender)
  • shortness of breath, coughing and trouble breathing
  • a lump or swelling that can be felt in the abdomen or enlargement of the abdomen
  • pain in the chest, abdomen, bones or other parts of the body
  • low red blood cell counts (called anemia) caused by bleeding in the gastrointestinal (GI)gastrointestinal (GI)Referring to or having to do with the digestive organs, particularly the stomach, small intestine and large intestine. tract or cancer in the bone marrow
  • headaches or other neurological symptoms (such as confusion, memory problems or problems walking)


Dr Daniel De Carvalho Tricking cancer stem cells to stop growing

Read more

Volunteers provide comfort and kindness

Illustration of volunteers

Thousands of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers work in regional cancer centres, lodges and community hospitals to support people receiving treatment.

Learn more