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Soft Palate Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Soft Palate Cancer

The symptoms of soft palate cancer, like other oropharynx cancers, depend on where the tumor is and how big it is. Most commonly, patients will see or feel a growth in their mouth on the soft palate. However, it is not uncommon for the first symptom of a cancer in the soft palate to be a lump in the neck. In any case, oropharynx cancer can present with a whole host of different symptoms, including5, Koivunen P, Rantala N, Hyrynkangas K, Jokinen K, Alho OP. The impact of patient and professional diagnostic delays on survival in pharyngeal cancer. Cancer. Dec 1 2001;92(11):2885-2891.6, Roistacher SL, Tanenbaum D. Myofascial pain associated with oropharyngeal cancer. Oral surgery, oral medicine, and oral pathology. May 1986;61(5):459-462.7 Rogers SN, Vedpathak SV, Lowe D. Reasons for delayed presentation in oral and oropharyngeal cancer: the patients perspective. The British journal of oral & maxillofacial surgery. Jul 2011;49(5):349-353.:

  • Pain or difficulty with swallowing in the throat: This can occur because a tumor is in the way of swallowing, and so it becomes difficult or painful to swallow. Also, there can be ulceration and bleeding as the tumor grows, causing pain.
  • A lump in the neck: This will be a symptom of oropharyngeal cancer if it has spread to lymph nodes in the neck. This can be the first symptom that brings a patient to the doctor. If you have a neck mass, and your doctor is concerned that it represents cancer spread from somewhere else, one of the first places he or she will look is your oropharynx.
  • Ear pain (particularly on one side, with no other ear problems): Ear pain, also known as otalgia, happens because the nerves of the throat reach the brain through the same pathway as one of the nerves in the ear. Therefore, your brain might interpret a pain in the throat as coming from the ear. This is called referred pain. Consequently, unexplained ear pain that doesn’t go away should be evaluated by a specialist. It is important to understand that most causes of ear pain are due to simple problems such as middle ear infection or dysfunction of the Eustachian tube. TMJ pain due to a problem in the joint located in front of the ear may also present as otalgia.

Other symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty opening your mouth widely (trismus)
  • Feeling a lump in the throat
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • A change in the way you speak
  • Weight loss

But don’t jump to any conclusions. You could have one or more of these symptoms but NOT have oropharyngeal cancer. There are several non-cancerous causes of the same symptoms. That’s why you need to see a specialist.

References

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2 Blot WJ, McLaughlin JK, Winn DM, et al. Smoking and drinking in relation to oral and pharyngeal cancer. Cancer research. Jun 1 1988;48(11):3282-3287.

3 D'Souza G, Kreimer AR, Viscidi R, et al. Case-control study of human papillomavirus and oropharyngeal cancer. The New England journal of medicine. May 10 2007;356(19):1944-1956.

4 Moreno-Lopez LA, Esparza-Gomez GC, Gonzalez-Navarro A, Cerero-Lapiedra R, Gonzalez-Hernandez MJ, Dominguez-Rojas V. Risk of oral cancer associated with tobacco smoking, alcohol consumption and oral hygiene: a case-control study in Madrid, Spain. Oral oncology. Mar 2000;36(2):170-174.

5 Koivunen P, Rantala N, Hyrynkangas K, Jokinen K, Alho OP. The impact of patient and professional diagnostic delays on survival in pharyngeal cancer. Cancer. Dec 1 2001;92(11):2885-2891.

6 Roistacher SL, Tanenbaum D. Myofascial pain associated with oropharyngeal cancer. Oral surgery, oral medicine, and oral pathology. May 1986;61(5):459-462.

7 Rogers SN, Vedpathak SV, Lowe D. Reasons for delayed presentation in oral and oropharyngeal cancer: the patients perspective. The British journal of oral & maxillofacial surgery. Jul 2011;49(5):349-353.

8 Spiro RH, Thaler HT, Hicks WF, Kher UA, Huvos AH, Strong EW. The importance of clinical staging of minor salivary gland carcinoma. Am J Surg. 1991 Oct;162(4):330-6.

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12 Referenced with permission from The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) for Head and Neck Cancers V.2.2016. © National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Inc 2016. All rights reserved. Accessed December 7, 2016. To view the most recent and complete version of the guideline, go online to www.nccn.org.

13 Jan JC, Hsu WH, Liu SA, Wong YK, Poon CK, Jiang RS, Jan JS, Chen IF. Prognostic factors in patients with buccal squamous cell carcinoma: 10-year experience. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2011 Feb;69(2):396-404.

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