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What to Know About Chemotherapy for Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Origin

Chemotherapy uses drugs to attack and kill cells that divide quickly. This includes both cancer cells and some normal cells. How chemotherapy drugs affect those normal cells depends on the types of drugs you get and your response to them.

Photo of intravenous drug bag

Doctors inject chemotherapy for carcinoma of unknown primary origin (CUP) into one of your veins. This lets it spread through your entire body to kill cancer cells. The drugs you receive depend on the area of your body where the cancer first showed signs. Your doctor may give you chemotherapy in an attempt to cure CUP. Or you may get it to try to slow the growth of the cancer.

Chemotherapy is often given in combinations of two or more drugs. The exact chemotherapy "cocktail" will depend on where the cancer has spread to, what coexisting medical problems you have, the toxic effects the chemotherapy may have, and where it is most likely that the cancer started. These are common drugs used to treat CUP:

  • Taxol (paclitaxel)

  • VePesid or VP-16 (etoposide)

  • Many brands of cisplatin or carboplatin

  • Taxotere (docetaxel)

  • 5-FU or Adrucil (fluorouracil)

  • Gemzar (gemcitabine)

Potential side effects of chemotherapy

Chemotherapy affects both normal cells and cancer cells. Side effects depend on the type and amount of drugs you take. Ask your doctor which ones are the most common for the drugs you are taking.

Here are some common side effects the people with carcinoma of unknown primary origin (CUP) have when they take chemotherapy:

  • Appetite loss

  • Blood count change

  • Bruising and bleeding

  • Diarrhea

  • Hair loss

  • Infection

  • Mouth sores

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Tiredness and fatigue

Ask your doctor or chemotherapy nurse to help you ease these side effects.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Last Review Date: 11/24/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.