Soft palate cancer is a cancer type on the upper back of the mouth, behind the teeth.
The palate, known as the roof of the mouth, is divided into two part: hard palate (the bony bridge between the mouth and the nasal cavity, and soft palate, the fleshy part behind the hard palate in the back of the mouth. The soft palate is part of the oropharynx and therefore soft palate cancer is considered as a type of throat cancer.
The function of the soft palate is to close the nasal passage during swallowing so food does not enter the nose. It helps to create speech sounds, too.
Soft palate cancer has higher incidence in older men, usually with history of smoking and drinking. However, in the last decade, there have been cases in younger people, too.
The positive side in soft palate cancer is that the tumour can be seen and fully removed by surgery through the mouth.
The symptoms of soft palate cancer depend on the tumor location, and those can include:
- painless ulcer in the beginning, which later turns into painful one
- bleeding from the ulcer
- speech changes
- difficulty swallowing, or in opening the mouth
- lump in the neck, in cases when the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck
- feeling a lump in the throat
- foul breath
- ear pain, especially on one side
- weight loss
These symptoms may also present for other diseases; they don’t necessarily imply you have a soft palate cancer. Therefore, a visit to the doctor is recommended.
The cause of soft palate cancer include:
- alcohol and tobacco use (cigarettes, pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco)
- genetic factors
- environmental factors
- HPV (human papillomavirus), especially the high-risk types, HPV 16 and HPV18
- Previous exposure to radiation
- Poor oral hygienes
- Deficiency in certain vitamins
The risks of developing a soft palate cancer are:
- heavy smoking
- excessive use of alcohol
- poor diet with less fruits and vegetables
- getting the HPV virus through sexual contact, mainly oral sex