Follow up for cancer of unknown primary (CUP) | Cancer Research UK
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Follow up for cancer of unknown primary (CUP)

Men and woman discussing unknown primary cancer

This page has information about follow up after treatment for unknown primary cancer.

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Follow up for cancer of unknown primary (CUP)

As with many types of cancer, there is a possibility that CUP could come back after your treatment. Or it can start to grow again. Your doctor or nurse will give you contact details for a key worker you can get in touch with if you are worried or start to become unwell. You may have regular check ups after treatment or you may just need to contact your doctor if you feel you need to see them or your symptoms get worse.

At check ups your doctor will check for any signs of the cancer coming back. They will ask you how you are feeling and whether you have had any symptoms, or are worried about anything. You may have blood tests, scans or X-rays to check your progress and continue to look for the primary cancer.

You don’t have to wait until the next appointment if you are worried or notice any new symptoms. It is important that you tell your doctor or specialist nurse about any new symptoms that carry on for more than a week or so. The symptoms could help to identify the type of cancer you have.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating CUP section.

 

 

What happens at follow up appointments

As with many types of cancer, there is a possibility that cancer of unknown primary could come back after your treatment. Or it could start to grow again. Your doctor or nurse will give you contact details for a key worker you can get in touch with if you are worried or start to become unwell. You may have regular check ups after treatment. Or you may just need to contact your doctor if you feel you need to see them or your symptoms get worse. Whether you need check ups and how often varies depending on how likely your cancer is to grow quickly and cause symptoms.

If you had cancer cells in a lymph node in the neck, you may need follow up every one to two months for the first couple of years. Your doctor will use the appointments to check for a head and neck cancer. If you had secondary cancer cells in other areas you may need less frequent monitoring.

At check ups your doctor will look for any signs of the cancer coming back or growing. You may have tests such as blood tests, CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans or X-rays. Your doctor or specialist nurse will also check for any signs of side effects from the cancer treatment. And they will continue to look for the site of the primary cancer. If the primary cancer is found you may be offered further treatment that could control your cancer for longer.

Your doctor or nurse will ask how you are feeling and whether you have had any symptoms, or are worried about anything. If you are worried or notice any new symptoms between appointments, let your doctor or nurse know as soon as possible. You don’t have to wait until the next appointment. It is important that you tell them about any new symptoms that carry on for longer than a week or so. The symptoms could also help to identify the type of cancer you have and help your specialist to treat you and control the cancer for longer.

 

Worrying about your appointments

Many people find their check ups quite worrying. If you are feeling well and getting on with life, a hospital appointment can bring all the worry about your cancer back to you. You may find it helpful to tell someone close to you how you feel. If you are able to share your worries, they may not seem quite so bad. It is quite common nowadays for people to have counselling after cancer treatment. To find out more about counselling, look in the coping with cancer section.

If you want to find people to share experiences with on line, you could use CancerChat, our online forum. Or go through MyWavelength. This is a free service that aims to put people with similar medical conditions in touch with each other.

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Updated: 24 July 2014