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Cancer of Unknown Primary Origin

What is cancer of unknown primary origin?

Cancer of unknown primary origin presents as a lump, usually in a lymph node, but the origin of the metastasis (cancer spreading from one area to another) is not apparent because there are no symptoms other than the lump. The goal of physicians is to find and treat the origin of the metastasis.

What are the symptoms of cancer of unknown primary origin?

The only symptom of cancer of unknown primary origin is a mass. Because patients don't present with additional symptoms, it isn't immediately clear where the metastasis originated.

How is cancer of unknown primary origin diagnosed?

A biopsy is performed on the tumor to determine whether it is cancerous or benign.

How is cancer of unknown primary origin treated?

The first step of treatment is to find the location where the cancer originated. After a careful examination of the body in the doctor's office, your physician will order imaging tests based on the information he or she received from the biopsy. MRI, CT scans, and PET scans are used to attempt to find the origin. If the origin is still unknown, some patients will have additional examinations, where supplementary biopsies may be performed to try to determine the site of origin.

If the point of origination of the tumor is discovered, treatment will be initiated appropriate to the specific origin of the tumor. However, if no origin is discovered after imaging and more thorough examinations, a treatment plan will be developed using the information gathered from the biopsies. Patients in this situation may undergo radiation therapy on the area where the mass presented and the areas where the cancer most likely originated. They may require chemotherapy as determined by medical oncologists.

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