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Soft Palate Cancer

The soft palate can be seen by looking inside your mouth. It is just behind the hard palate (or bony roof of the mouth). It is actually part of the oropharynx, not the oral cavity. The oropharynx is part of the throat, which includes the tonsils, base of tongue, soft palate and posterior oropharynx wall.

Like all head and neck cancers, oropharyngeal cancer is often seen in older men who have a history of smoking and drinking. However, over the last decade doctors have been seeing more and more oropharyngeal cancers in patients who are younger, healthier and non-smokers. These patients often have large cancerous lymph nodes in the neck. When this happens, it is often associated with a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV). Researchers are still figuring out the details about oropharynx cancer associated with HPV, but one thing is certain—it behaves quite differently than oropharyngeal cancers not associated with HPV. As a general rule, these patients have improved outcomes with current treatment strategies.

Soft palate cancer is grouped in with other oropharynx cancers because they all have similar presentations, work-ups and treatment plans. One thing about soft palate cancer as compared with other oropharynx sites is that it is often easier to remove the entire tumor with surgery done completely through the mouth. However, even that idea is changing with new tools to access oropharynx cancers through the mouth (see Trans-Oral Robotic Surgery, or TORS).

References

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