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What is Palate Cancer?

Palate cancer is a serious condition where malignant cells form in the tissues of the palate, the roof of the mouth. It can affect speech, eating, and lead to other health complications. Early detection is crucial for effective treatment. Understanding its symptoms and risk factors is key. Wondering how it's diagnosed and treated? Let's explore the journey to recovery together.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Cancer of the palate is a cancerous growth that affects the roof of a person's mouth. The roof of the mouth is called the palate, and it has two parts to it. The hard part consists of a bony frontal portion, which is referred to as the hard palate. The softer part at the back is referred to as the soft palate. Cancer can form in either part of the palate; fortunately, palate cancer is a rare condition.

There's a variety of symptoms that may indicate palate cancer. They include painful mouth swelling, lumps, and mouth ulcers. Symptoms such as difficult and uncomfortable swallowing may also point to cancer of the palate. Other symptoms include night sweats and weight loss. It's important to note that these symptoms can indicate other types of conditions instead of palate cancer; as such, it is critical to be evaluated by a doctor.

Difficulty in swallowing can be a symptom of palate cancer.
Difficulty in swallowing can be a symptom of palate cancer.

To diagnose cancer of the palate, a doctor takes a complete patient history and performs an examination. The doctor will look for abnormalities of the mouth and take a tissue sample, which is referred to as a biopsy. A pathologist in a laboratory will look for cancer cells within this tissue sample. Besides the biopsy, a doctor may order other tests to determine whether or not the cancer cells have spread beyond the roof of the mouth. These tests may include x-rays, CT (computed tomography) scans, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) tests, and ultrasounds; in some cases PET (positron emission tomography) scans, which use radioactive materials, are also used to locate actively growing cancerous tissue.

Surgery is sometimes necessary for someone suffering with palate cancer.
Surgery is sometimes necessary for someone suffering with palate cancer.

When palate cancer is caught early, treatment is more likely to be successful. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy is often used to treat the disease. In some cases, treatment requires both radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Sometimes surgery is necessary, particularly when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes of the neck or other parts of the body. Laser microsurgery may even be used for removing small- to medium-sized tumors.

Cigarette smoke is a leading cause of palate cancer.
Cigarette smoke is a leading cause of palate cancer.

In some cases, such as when the cancer spreads and the patient's life is threatened, it is necessary to remove whole portions of the palate. When this occurs, reconstructive surgery may be used to provide a more normal appearance and install tissue flaps and prosthetics that allow the patient to speak and swallow following surgery. Additionally, rehabilitation therapy may be necessary to help the patient overcome speech and swallowing difficulties, learn to choose foods that will minimize chewing and swallowing problems, and adjust to regular life following surgery. Likewise, patients may receive help with quitting smoking if they so desire.

Chewing tobacco, which can cause palate cancer.
Chewing tobacco, which can cause palate cancer.

One of the top causes of palate cancer is tobacco use. In fact, it is estimated that up to 90 percent of oral cancers are caused by cigarette, cigar, and pipe smoking. Chewing tobacco and snuff contribute to that statistic as well. Also implicated in the development of oral cancer are alcoholic beverages and conditions like leukoplakia, which causes white patches in the mouth.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a TheHealthBoard writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Learn more...
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a TheHealthBoard writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

Learn more...

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    • Difficulty in swallowing can be a symptom of palate cancer.
      By: nebari
      Difficulty in swallowing can be a symptom of palate cancer.
    • Surgery is sometimes necessary for someone suffering with palate cancer.
      By: Tyler Olson
      Surgery is sometimes necessary for someone suffering with palate cancer.
    • Cigarette smoke is a leading cause of palate cancer.
      By: Николай Григорьев
      Cigarette smoke is a leading cause of palate cancer.
    • Chewing tobacco, which can cause palate cancer.
      By: robhainer
      Chewing tobacco, which can cause palate cancer.
    • Cancerous cells could spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
      By: Syda Productions
      Cancerous cells could spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.
    • MRIs can be used to locate growing cancerous tissue.
      By: Mikhail Kondrashov
      MRIs can be used to locate growing cancerous tissue.
    • Palate cancer can affect the hard or soft palate of the upper mouth.
      By: snapgalleria
      Palate cancer can affect the hard or soft palate of the upper mouth.
    • Pipe smokers make up a significant number of those with palate cancer.
      By: Laurin Rinder
      Pipe smokers make up a significant number of those with palate cancer.