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Palate cancer


Palate cancer falls within the scope of cancers of the oral cavity, which affect more men than women. They affect the upper part of the mouth, either the most forward part, called the hard palate, or the deepest part, called the soft palate. Cancer of the palate is rarer than cancer of the lips or tongue. Palate cancer, like other cancers that involve the upper aerodigestive tract, typically occurs after age 50, particularly in smokers or alcoholics. These two factors, tobacco and alcohol, greatly increase the risk of developing this type of cancer. The development of cancer of the palate can often be associated with another head and neck cancer.


The symptoms of cancer of the palate may be absent at the beginning of the disease, it being an asymptomatic cancer, and the only physical sign may be a small lesion found inside the mouth. Other symptoms may add on in an inconsistent manner:
- a reddish lesion on the palate;
- a feeling of discomfort in the mouth;
- pain when swallowing called odynophagia;
- an occasional difficulty in food intake, which is called dysphagia;
- bleeding;
- An ear pain sometimes;
- the only sign felt by the patient may also be swelling of one or more lymph nodes, without any other physical sign is present.
Traditionally, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss are present.


The diagnosis of cancer of the palate is based on the information provided by the patient after a review of the clinical signs. A dentist as well as a doctor can detect suspicious palate lesions, particularly in the context of smoking and drinking. To confirm the diagnosis of cancer of the palate, it is necessary to take a sample of the lesion: a biopsy, which will be analyzed by a pathologist to determine its nature. Because of the frequent association with other head and neck tumors, an examination under general anesthesia will permit a study of the entire upper aerodigestive tract via a panendoscopy. Additional tests will be performed according to the location of the results, such as a CT scan, an MRI, or other techniques used in the staging of cancer.


Overall, the treatment will depend on the size of the tumor and the results of its staging. Several alternatives are possible: it may consist of radiotherapy, preceded by chemotherapy and surgery, or surgery following radiation therapy in case of failure of the latter. The nodes involved must also be taken care of by a lymphadenectomy.


It is usually possible to prevent cancers of the palate, as well as cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract in general, by stopping tobacco and alcohol use.

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