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Cancer of unknown primary

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Supportive care for cancer of unknown primary

Supportive careSupportive careTreatment given to improve the quality of life of people who have a serious illness (such as cancer). helps people meet the physical, practical, emotional and spiritual challenges of dealing with cancer of unknown primary (CUP). It is an important part of cancer care. There are many programs and services available to help meet the needs and improve the quality of life of people living with cancer and their loved ones, especially after treatment has ended.

It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of cancer of unknown primary (CUP). With CUP, cancer is found in the body, but where it started may not be known even after tests are done. The person may have cancer in more than one location in the body and the cancer can be advanced when the person is diagnosed. Although some types of CUP can be treated effectively, others may not respond as well to treatment and the cancer may not be controlled for very long. The uncertainty associated with a CUP diagnosis and what may happen in the future often causes fear and anxiety.

People whose cancer is very advanced are offered palliative care, which focuses on making the person as comfortable as possible, relieving symptoms and improving or maintaining the person's quality of life.

People with CUP often have to deal with symptoms caused by their cancer or side effects of treatment. A person with CUP may have the following concerns.


Pain is a concern for people with CUP. There are many different ways to relieve pain associated with CUP. One way to control pain is by using pain-relieving drugs called analgesics. Some drugs are better for certain types of pain. It is important to take pain-relieving drugs at regular times during the day to help keep pain under control and prevent it from building up.


People with CUP have less energy and can tire easily. Fatigue may have taken them to the doctor in the first place. Fatigue can also be a side effect of treatment for CUP. Some ways to cope with fatigue include pacing yourself, resting between activities and trying to be active.

Loss of appetite

People with CUP may deal with a loss of appetite. Loss of appetite can be related to CUP or its treatment. Loss of appetite can cause a person to lose weight, which is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its treatment. People with CUP may also have nausea and vomiting related to their cancer or because of their cancer treatments. This can also affect a person's appetite.

Trying small amounts of high-calorie foods or fluids, having smaller, more frequent meals and nutritional supplements can be helpful. When appropriate, the doctor may order medicines to help increase appetite. Anti-nausea drugs can be used to control nausea and vomiting.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about supportive care after treatment.


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