What Is Cancer of Unknown Primary?

By Dr. Matthew Watson

Cancers often spread from their primary site (the part of the body in which the cancer started) to one or more metastatic sites (other parts of the body). Cancers are named according to their primary site, regardless of where in the body they spread. For example, a lung cancer that spreads to the lymph nodes, adrenal glands, and the liver is still classified as lung cancer and not as a lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), adrenal cancer, or liver cancer.

A small number of cancers first appear in one or more metastatic sites, and the primary site is not known. These cancers are called cancer of unknown primary (CUP). The primary site of some of these cancers may eventually be found by additional tests. When this happens, they are no longer considered a cancer of unknown primary and are renamed according to the newly discovered site of origin. Read more...

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