Cancer of Unknown Primary

Cancer Diagnosis

It is a  traumatic moment for most of us when friends or family are diagnosed with cancer. Very often, one of the first things we will ask is this: what type of cancer do you have. By this we mean is it breast cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer and so on.

But sometimes the answer to that questions is: I don’t know. For the last ten years a small charity has focussed its efforts on making people aware of a type of a cancer where it proves difficult and sometimes impossible to identify the site of the primary tumour. That’s when the answer to the question is: I don’t know.

Knowing where your cancer is – why it matters

Why does this matter? It matters because, as the charity’s director John Symons says: ‘Treatment for cancer, then and now in 2017, is based on identifying the primary site – the starting point – of the cancer because the genetic makeup of any scattered tumour retains many of the original characteristics wherever it spreads in the body.’

Treatment of CUP is getting better

When the Cancer of Unknown Primary Foundation was set up in 2007, medical attitudes towards cancer of unknown primary (CUP) have been described as ‘nihilistic’. Over the last ten years there has been a ‘sea change’, according to the charity, and there are now grounds for ‘cautious optimism’. For more information about CUP and treatment go to

This week has been Cancer of Unknown Primary Awareness Week. It is encouraging that progress has been made in the treatment of this disease since the birth of the charity ten years ago.

The loss of my daughter

Megan and son

Megan with her son, one year before she was diagnosed with a cancer that could not be idenitifed

My daughter Megan Young was diagnosed with CUP eight years ago and died four months later, aged 32. I am glad that the situation has improved. But I am sad there was such ignorance about this form of cancer eight years ago when my daughter was so desperately ill and in need.

Make a donation

The work of the Cancer of Unknown Primary Foundation is funded by donations. To make a donation go to

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