Metastatic Neck Cancer with Unknown Primary

Metastatic neck cancer is a cancer that has spread from another location in your body to your neck. An unknown primary means the original location of the cancer has not been identified.


Symptoms of metastatic neck cancer with unknown primary include a lump or pain in your neck or throat that doesn't go away.


In addition to all major cancer screening and diagnosis methods, we also offer these techniques when testing for this cancer:

  • Positron Emission Tomography (PET Scan) – A procedure to find malignant tumor cells in the body
  • Endoscopy – A procedure used to look at areas in the throat that cannot be seen with a mirror during the physical exam
  • Bronchoscopy – A procedure used to look inside the trachea and large airways in the lung to check for abnormal areas
  • Serum tumor marker test – A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs, tissues, or tumor cells in the body


Surgery is the standard treatment for metastatic neck cancer with unknown primary. Surgical techniques may include:

  • Radical Neck Dissection – to remove all lymph nodes, the jugular vein, and muscles and nerves used for face, neck, and shoulder movement, speech, and swallowing
  • Modified Radical Neck Dissection – to remove all the lymph nodes in one or both sides of the neck without removing the neck muscles; the nerves and/or the jugular vein may be removed
  • Partial Neck Dissection – to remove some of the lymph nodes in the neck.

Radiation is also a common treatment option.

Your care team will work with you to determine the exact course of treatment. Learn more about treatment options.