Canadian Cancer Society logo

Cancer of unknown primary

You are here: 

Follow-up after treatment for cancer of unknown primary

Cancer of unknown primary (CUP) behaves differently in each person, and a standard follow-up schedule would not work for everyone. People with CUP should talk to their doctor about a follow-up plan that suits their individual situation. Follow-up care is often shared among the cancer specialists (oncologists) and the family doctor.

After treatment has ended, new symptoms and symptoms that don't go away should be reported to the doctor without waiting for the next scheduled appointment.

Schedule

Follow-up after treatment for CUP varies. There is no standard follow-up for people with CUP because it can include several different types of cancer.

Follow-up visits are usually scheduled on a regular basis, especially after the person has received treatment. How often follow-up is done depends on how the CUP responded to treatment and how likely it is to spread or come back (recur). People with certain types of CUP may be followed more closely than others.

If people are receiving palliative care for CUP, they are followed as often as needed.

Procedures

During a follow-up visit, the doctor usually asks questions about the side effects of treatment, how the person is coping and any symptoms the person may be having. The doctor may do a complete physical examination, paying special attention to areas of the body where the CUP was found or is likely to spread.

Tests may be ordered as part of follow-up or if the doctor suspects the cancer has progressed or come back (has recurred).

  • Imaging tests, such as x-rays or CT scans, may be done to check how the cancer has responded to treatment. They may also be done if the person has new symptoms.
  • Blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry or tumour marker tests, may be done if the doctor feels they will be helpful.

If a recurrence is found during follow-up, the oncology team will assess the person with cancer to determine the best treatment options.

See a list of questions to ask your doctor about follow-up after treatment.

Stories

David Rex I was staying in St. John’s all by my lonesome because my wife was too sick to travel with me. Daffodil Place was my lifeline.

Read David's story

Help for smokers trying to quit

Illustration of no smoking symbol

It’s okay to need help to quit smoking. The Canadian Cancer Society is here to support people who are ready to quit and even those people who aren’t ready.

Learn more