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Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Treatment (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 05/02/2014

Treatment Options for Carcinoma of Unknown Primary

Newly Diagnosed Carcinoma of Unknown Primary
        Cervical (Neck) Lymph Nodes
        Poorly Differentiated Carcinomas
        Women with Peritoneal Cancer
        Isolated Axillary Lymph Node Metastasis
        Inguinal Lymph Node Metastasis
        Melanoma in a Single Lymph Node Area
        Multiple Involvement
Recurrent Carcinoma of Unknown Primary



Newly Diagnosed Carcinoma of Unknown Primary

Cervical (Neck) Lymph Nodes

Cancer found in cervical (neck) lymph nodes may have spread from a tumor in the head or neck. Treatment of cervical lymph node carcinoma of unknown primary (CUP) may include the following:

See the PDQ summary on Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer with Occult Primary Treatment for more information.

Poorly Differentiated Carcinomas

Cancer cells that are poorly differentiated look very different from normal cells. The type of cell they came from is not known. Treatment of poorly differentiated carcinoma of unknown primary, including tumors in the neuroendocrine system (the part of the brain that controls hormone -producing glands throughout the body) may include the following:

Women with Peritoneal Cancer

Treatment for women who have peritoneal (lining of the abdomen) carcinoma of unknown primary may be the same as for ovarian cancer. Treatment may include the following:

See the PDQ summary on Ovarian Epithelial Cancer Treatment for more information.

Isolated Axillary Lymph Node Metastasis

Cancer found only in the axillary (armpit) lymph nodes may have spread from a tumor in the breast.

Treatment of axillary lymph node metastasis is usually:

Treatment also may include one or more of the following:

Inguinal Lymph Node Metastasis

Cancer found only in the inguinal (groin) lymph nodes most likely began in the genital, anal, or rectal area. Treatment of inguinal lymph node metastasis may include the following:

Melanoma in a Single Lymph Node Area

Treatment of melanoma that is found only in a single lymph node area is usually:

See PDQ summary on Melanoma Treatment for more information.

Multiple Involvement

There is no standard treatment for carcinoma of unknown primary that is found in several different areas of the body. Treatment may include the following:

Recurrent Carcinoma of Unknown Primary

Treatment for recurrent carcinoma of unknown primary is usually within a clinical trial. Treatment depends on the following:

  • The type of cancer.
  • How the cancer was treated before.
  • Where the cancer has come back in the body.
  • The condition and wishes of the patient.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with recurrent carcinoma of unknown primary. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials that may be right for you. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.

Check for U.S. clinical trials from NCI's list of cancer clinical trials that are now accepting patients with newly diagnosed carcinoma of unknown primary. For more specific results, refine the search by using other search features, such as the location of the trial, the type of treatment, or the name of the drug. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials that may be right for you. General information about clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.