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Questions to Ask About Cancer of Unknown Primary

It’s important to have open, honest communication with your doctor about your condition. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, no matter how small it might seem. Some questions to consider:

When you're told you have a cancer of unknown primary (CUP)

  • Should I have extensive testing to find out what kind of cancer of unknown primary (CUP) I have?
  • What kind of CUP do I have? How extensive is it?
  • Have you done all the appropriate tests on my biopsy specimen?

When deciding on a treatment plan

  • How much experience do you have treating these tumors?
  • What are my treatment choices?
  • Which treatment do you recommend, and why?
  • What's the goal of treatment?
  • Should I get a second opinion? How do I do that? Can you recommend someone?
  • How quickly do we need to decide on treatment?
  • What should I do to get ready for treatment?
  • Are there any clinical trials I should think about taking part in?
  • How long will treatment last? What will it be like? Where will it be done?
  • What risks or side effects should I expect? How long are they likely to last?
  • Will treatment affect my daily activities?
  • What are the chances that my CUP will come back if initial treatment seems to be successful? What would we do if that happens?

During treatment

  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • Is there anything I can do to help manage side effects?
  • What symptoms or side effects should I tell you about right away?
  • How can I reach you on nights, holidays, or weekends?
  • Do I need to change what I eat during treatment?
  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • Should I exercise? What should I do, and how often?
  • Can you suggest a mental health professional I can see if I start to feel overwhelmed, depressed, or distressed?

After treatment

  • Are there any limits on what I can do?
  • What symptoms should I watch for?
  • What kind of exercise should I do now?
  • What type of follow-up will I need after treatment?
  • How often will I need to have follow-up exams and tests?
  • How will we know if the cancer has come back? What should I watch for?
  • What will my options be if the cancer comes back?

Along with these examples , be sure to write down some of your own questions. For instance, you might want more information about clinical trials or working during treatment.

Keep in mind that doctors aren’t the only ones who can give you information. Other health care professionals, such as nurses and social workers, can answer some of your questions. To find more about speaking with your health care team, see The Doctor-Patient Relationship.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as editors and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: March 8, 2018

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