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CUP Cancer: How Does Diagnosis Affect Patient Outcomes?


Cancer can affect any part of the human body, and it will often spread to other organs and tissues through metastasis from the first cancerous cells to form. However, in some cases, the primary origin of the disease is not apparent to health care providers. Medical professionals at the Mayo Clinic refer to the condition as Carcinoma of Unknown Primary, CUP cancer or occult primary cancer. In short, health care providers identify cancerous cells in the body, but there are challenges in assessing where it started.

The nature of CUP cancer raises misdiagnosis issues in two ways:

  1. A physician does not follow appropriate practices for in-depth diagnostic testing when the origin of cancer is unclear.
  2. A doctor misdiagnoses CUP cancer when the primary origin of the tumor should have been discovered by following the medical standard of care.

The patient could suffer considerable harm with either scenario, and Florida medical malpractice laws do cover mistakes with diagnosis. However, CUP cancer presents unique challenges, so you should consult with a Miami lawyer about failure to diagnose cancer. An overview is also useful.

Symptoms Vary Widely: The signs of CUP are different based upon where the cancer started and spread, but physicians must focus on the symptoms when the origin is unknown. Health care providers must also distinguish the signs from medical conditions other than cancer. Talk to your doctor if you experience:

  • Thickening of tissue or lumps in any part of the body
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Unusual bleeding
  • Changes in bowel movements or urinary habits
  • Isolated, continued pain

Diagnosing CUP Cancer: A patient may be subjected to numerous tests and lab screenings as health care providers attempt to pinpoint the origin, and one important diagnosis tool is a biopsy. Physicians remove cancerous cells and compare them to known cancers, which may enable them to assess where they started. In addition, oncologists may conduct imaging tests, such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. These are non-invasive diagnosis tools that help doctors see parts of the body without surgery.

Staging and Treatment: When the origin of the cancer is unknown, oncologists cannot apply the basic cancer staging principles that help them evaluate the spread of the disease and treatment options. By definition, CUP cancer has already metastasized beyond its starting point. Instead of using staging, health care providers take what they know about the cancer and develop a care plan around it. Treatment options are generally the same as with known cancers, such as:

  • Surgery to remove cancerous cells
  • Chemotherapy to stop cancer growth and destroy cells
  • Radiation therapy that kills cancer through high-energy x-rays
  • Hormone therapy that blocks substances that help the cancer grow

A Florida Failure to Diagnose Cancer Attorney Can Advise You on Legal Matters

 For additional information on diagnosis mistakes with all types of cancer, please contact Freidin Brown, P.A. to set up a free consultation at our offices in Miami or Fort Myers. Our team serves clients throughout South Florida in a range of medical malpractice claims, and we are happy to tell you more about your legal remedies.


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