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What Are the Symptoms of Palate Cancer?

Dan Harkins
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Palate cancer can form in the back, "soft palate" region of the mouth's roof or in the front, "hard palate" region. In either case, early detection of the disease is imperative for improving treatment options. Many of the symptoms for this type of mouth cancer are hard to detect, since early tumors are not painful. Some symptoms such as persistent bad breath, mouth lesions, and loose teeth can usually be an indication of the cancer.

Spotting the early symptoms of palate cancer takes preemptive measures. It may reveal itself in a foul odor in the breath that is not much diminished after brushing. Also, a non-painful white or red lesion might appear on the roof of the mouth and not go away. White lesions are called leukoplakia, while the red ones are called erythroplakia; both are potential precursors to cancerous tissue.

The teeth might feel a little loose, too, in the early stages. If the patient wears dentures, he or she may notice discomfort where none existed before. Teeth will feel looser as the disease progresses. It also may become progressively harder to swallow.

As with many cancers, the symptoms of palate cancer become intensified and more noticeable if not caught in the earliest of stages. The mouth may become difficult to open, a condition called trismus. Speech patterns may change, and some words may become hard to pronounce.

Any lesions found in later stages are more apt to be raw and possibly bleeding. Teeth may start to fall out completely at this stage, and overall skin swelling in the front or rear palates could occur. Later-stage lesions will be easy to spot, because by this point they are likely to hurt, especially when touched. Some are so pronounced that a lump may protrude from somewhere along the neck.

Many scientists point the finger at tobacco and alcohol consumption as prominent risk factors for developing soft palate cancer. Cedar-Sinai Medical Center blames "reverse smoking" for contributing to hard palate cancers; this is a process of placing the lit end of a cigarette in the mouth, instead of the other way around. Genetics and environmental influences can also factor in as risks.

Once a few symptoms are noticed, patients should visit a doctor. A variety of tests, from PET and CT scans to a orthopantomography, are designed to help physicians gauge the extent of tumor growth. Once diagnosed, the cancer is treated with radiation therapy and surgery to remove any tumors.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Harkins
By Dan Harkins , Former Writer
Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his journalism degree, he spent more than two decades honing his craft as a writer and editor for various publications. Dan’s debut novel showcases his storytelling skills and unique perspective by drawing readers into the story’s captivating narrative.

Discussion Comments

By Animandel — On Aug 12, 2014

Even though we know the harm of smoking, quitting can be tough. If you want to have a better chance of quitting you need to figure out why you smoke. People smoke for different reasons, so they need different methods of stopping the habit.

I knew plenty of people when I was in school who only smoked when they were partying or drinking. This type of habit is generally easier to quit than a habit that involves smoking to reduce stress. But once you find the causes you are on the right track to quitting for good and hopefully avoiding palate cancer and all of the other health problems that smoking leads to.

By mobilian33 — On Aug 12, 2014

I know a couple of people who are using the new vapor cigarettes to cut back on smoking regular cigarettes because they are afraid of the various cancers such as mouth and throat cancer and of course lung cancer that can be caused by smoking cigarettes for a long time.

These people say that the smokeless cigarettes are not the same, but they give you something to hold in your hand and put in your mouth. Neither of them have been able to completely quit smoking cigarettes, but they have both cut back on how many they smoke, which can't hurt.

By Laotionne — On Aug 11, 2014

My friend's father smoked his entire life. I guess he never thought about the harm he might be doing to his body. Then again, maybe he couldn't stop or maybe he thought smoking was worth the risk. In any event, he got mouth cancer and he eventually had to use one of the artificial throat boxes to speak.

He had noticed some of the symptoms early on, but he ignored them and by the time he went to the doctor he was in really bad condition because the cancer was spreading. Even after all of that, he still smoked until the day he died.

Dan Harkins

Dan Harkins

Former Writer

Dan Harkins, a former military professional, brings his diverse life experiences to his writing. After earning his...
Learn more
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