The soft palate is located in the upper portion of the mouth next to the opening of the throat and it is an extension of the hard palate, which is also known as the roof of the mouth. Because of the location of this part of the body, soft palate cancer is considered a form of throat cancer.
Although there are no definite answers to why individuals get cancer, there are several factors that can increase the risk of being diagnosed with soft palate cancer. These include a history of using tobacco products and drinking alcohol, radiation exposure, contracting the human papillomavirus and genetics.
The symptoms of soft palate cancer can vary due to the size and specific location of the tumor. Many individuals first notice the cancer when they feel or see the tumor in the throat area inside the mouth. Some people begin having problems when they swallow if the growth is partially obstructing the throat. If the cancer advances to the lymph nodes around the neck area, individuals will often see a protrusion. Additional symptoms include pain in the area of the ear, problems opening the mouth, blood inside the mouth, speaking defects and losing weight.
Soft palate cancer is a type of oropharynx cancer, so it has virtually the same causes as other cancers of that region. As with most cancers generally, there are certainly genetic and hereditary factors in the development of this cancer.
There are several behavioral factors that do play a role in the development of soft palate cancer. The use of tobacco products is one of the main causes of this cancer. This includes the use of smokeless tobacco products. The use of heavy amounts of alcoholic beverages has also been shown to contribute to soft palate cancer development.
Another important cause of soft palate and throat cancer is infection with the human papilloma virus, though not everyone with this virus will develop this cancer.
One additional factor that contributes to soft palate cancer is poor oral hygiene. Those with gum disease and dental issues have a higher tendency to develop cancer of the mouth and throat.
A treatment plan will be developed by physicians who specialize in soft palate cancer. The exact treatment will be based on the advancement of the cancer, the location of the tumor and if the cancer has reached the lymph nodes. Treatments that are normally recommended may include one or a combination of radiation, chemotherapy drugs, biologic medications and surgery. In some cases, after the removal of the tumor, individuals will need to have reconstructive surgery to restore normal body functions, such as breathing and eating, and to reconstruct facial features that were altered due to the removal of the tumor.
Since the use of all types of tobacco products is the main causative factor in the development of soft palate cancer, it is important to never use these types of products.
It is also important to limit the intake of alcoholic beverages. Those who drink heavily have a high risk of this cancer.
Practicing good oral hygiene is important. Brushing your teeth and flossing twice a day is a minimum. A checkup and cleaning by a dentist aids in oral care, and the dentist can potentially spot any oral cancers at an early stage. Always report any mouth or throat lesions to your primary care provider or dentist if they don’t resolve within two weeks or if they get larger.
Since the human papilloma virus is a potential cause of soft palate cancer, protection from the virus is important. There is a vaccine currently on the market that does protect against this virus.