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What to Know About Surgery for Carcinoma of Unknown Primary Origin

During surgery, your doctor removes a tumor or tumors from your body. Your doctor usually tries to take out all of the cancerous tissue and some of the normal tissue around it. Surgery is usually done for cancer that is easy to reach, for instance, a skin growth or a lymph node that the surgeon can feel with his or her fingers.

Carcinoma of unknown primary origin is assumed to have already spread by the time it is found, so surgery is not usually the first treatment option. It might be considered in some situations, such as if cancer is found in the lymph nodes and the doctor feels it might have spread there from somewhere nearby. Other situations in which surgery might be used include surgical biopsies to diagnose and help determine the extent of a cancer, and surgery to help relieve symptoms such as pain or other problems (such as a blocked intestine). 

The type of surgery done depends on where the cancer is and what the purpose of the surgery is. If your doctor mentions surgery as an option to treat your cancer, be sure you understand the goal of the surgery, as well as its likely benefits and and risks. 

Potential side effects from surgery for carcinoma of unknown primary origin

Like other cancer therapies, surgery can also cause side effects. These depend on what kind of surgery you have. These are some of the possible side effects of surgery:

  • Pain at the surgical site

  • Irritation of the skin where the surgery was done

  • Infection of the incision

  • Bleeding, either inside the body or where the incision was done 

Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice any side effects because there are often ways to treat them. If you have poor general health and poor nutrition, you may have an increased risk for infection or have problems with wound healing.