Surgery for Cancer of Unknown Primary

Surgery is a common treatment for many types of cancer if they are found at an early stage. But because cancer of unknown primary (CUP) has already spread beyond the site where it started, surgery is less likely to be helpful.

Surgery may be an option if the cancer is found only in the lymph nodes or in one organ, where the surgeon may be able to remove it all. However, there’s still a chance that the cancer may be elsewhere in the body. If you are considering surgery as a treatment option, it’s important to understand how likely it is to help you.

The type and extent of surgery will depend on where the cancer is and how extensive it is. If surgery is used, it may be followed by radiation therapy and possibly chemotherapy to try to kill any remaining cancer cells in the body.

For more information on surgery, see our document Understanding Cancer Surgery: A Guide for Patients and Families.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master's-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: July 2, 2014 Last Revised: January 27, 2016

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