Cancer of Unknown Primary Origin (CUP)

Sometimes a metastatic disease is found, but the primary site of the tumor is not detectable. This situation is also known as cancer of unknown primary origin (CUP).

Cancer of unknown Primary origin means that cancer has already spread, but doctors do not know where the tumor is located. CUP starts most commonly in gland cells and is a quite rare situation (approximately 5% of all cancers). Frequently metastases of CUP are found in the liver, the lungs, the bone, the brain, the skin or lymphatic tissue. The challenge is to perform a diagnostic work-up to be able to detect the primary tumor location and to gain histological samples to examine cancerous tissue under a microscope. The type of cancer has substantial implications for the individual management of metastatic disease.

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Treatment options

Treatment plans are based and designed on individual decisions: 

  • Tumor type
  • The location where the metastasis has been found
  • The anticipated primary site of the tumor
  • The person's overall health status

The treatment is provided by cancer specialists such as oncologists and oncological surgeons. At the Charité Comprehensive Cancer Center, health specialists have the facilities to provide the individual patient with individual therapeutic concepts, that may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Hormonal therapy
  • Surgery
  • Watch full follow-up after treatment

Click here to find the range of therapy options of the European Surgical Centre for Metastatic Disease.