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Making Sense of Cancer of an Unknown Primary

Finding out that you have cancer of an unknown primary can be confusing. Fortunately, medical imaging can be helpful in tracking the original location of these kinds of cancers in order for doctors to make more informed decisions about treatments. If you have received this diagnosis, your doctor may send you to an imaging center in San Antonio for a PET scan or other imaging tests in order to learn more about your disease. Here are the answers to some questions you may have about your diagnosis.

doctor looking at scan

What is cancer of an unknown primary?

In most cases, cancers are named for the organ in which they began. For instance, if you have cancer that starts in your throat, it will be referred to as throat cancer, even if it spreads to other parts of the body. In this instance, throat cancer is the primary cancer. With cancer of an unknown primary, doctors are not sure where the cancer began. Although your doctor may know that the cancer is in multiple parts of your body, he or she cannot determine what organ was the primary location. Knowing the primary location of a cancer can be important in making decisions about treatments.

How can the primary location be found?

There are a number of tests your doctor may order to find the primary location of your cancer. Biopsies, which allow your doctor to see the cancer cells, can be helpful, as can blood tests. Medical imaging can also play an important role. Doctors can look at how cancer is developing and behaving to help them find the primary location.

Can the primary location always be found?

Sometimes, the starting point of cancer of an unknown primary cannot be found. If the primary location is not found, doctors will build a treatment plan using the information they do have about your cancer. As with other forms of cancer, cancer of an unknown primary may be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted and hormone therapies, and other medications.

Categories: PET Scan, Concord Imaging