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Find out about survival for cancer of unknown primary.

Survival depends on many different factors. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. It depends on your:

  • type and stage of cancer
  • level of fitness
  • previous treatment

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis). You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

What affects survival

Your outlook depends on several factors. It is best to talk to your own specialist. They should be able to give you a broad idea about your outlook. Even then, it is very difficult for your specialist to be accurate. 

A small number of people with unknown primary cancer have factors that might mean they have a better outlook. These factors help your doctor decide what treatment is best for you. They include having:

  • cancer cells in the lymph nodes in your neck, suggesting the primary cancer is a head and neck squamous cell cancer
  • features that suggest you have a germ cell tumour (such as a testicular cancer)
  • features that suggest you have a neuroendocrine carcinoma

Other factors that affect your outlook include how well your cancer responds to the treatment, how widespread your cancer is, and your general health and level of fitness.

Survival for cancer of unknown primary

There are no UK-wide survival statistics for cancer of unknown primary.

Survival statistics are available for people with cancer of unknown primary in England. These figures are for men and women diagnosed between 2010 and 2014.

Generally for all those with cancer of unknown primary:

  • around 20 out of 100 people (around 20%) survive for 1 year or more
  • around 13 out of 100 people (around 13%) survive for 3 years or more

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 3 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 3 years. They relate to the number of people who are still alive 1 year or 3 years after their diagnosis of cancer.

Some people live much longer than 3 years.

More detailed statistics

You can read other statistics about cancer of unknown primary in our Cancer Statistics section. 

Information and help