Symptoms and causes of cancer of the palate

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  1. Cancer of the palate
  2. Definition: what is cancer of the palate?
  3. Palate cancer: at what age?
  4. Causes: alcohol and tobacco
  5. Symptoms: pain, bleeding...
  6. Diagnosis: MRI, blood tests, computerized tomography...
  7. Treatments: radiotherapy, surgery...
  8. Prognosis: can you die from cancer of the palate?
  9. Prevention
  10. You may be interested:

Cancer of the palate

Cancer of the palate, which affects men more often than women, can be caused by the combined use of tobacco and alcohol. Symptoms, causes, age, treatment An update with Dr. Agnès Dupret-Bories, ENT surgeon at the University Cancer Institute of Toulouse.

cancer of the palate

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Definition: what is cancer of the palate?

Cancer of the palate falls under the category of oral cancer.

It is an aggressive tumor that develops in the oral cavity called the palate or arch of the mouth, in its most advanced part: the hard palate.

If left untreated, the tumor will increase in size, affect neighboring structures (gums, cheeks, etc.) and infiltrate deeply, destroying the palate bone.

Like all ENT cancer tumors, it can also lead to metastases in the cervical and distant lymph nodes (lung, bone, etc.).

Palate cancer: at what age?

"This cancer affects eight men for one woman with an average age between 50 and 70.

But it is a cancer that can also affect the elderly, even beyond the age of 84," says Agnès Dupret-Bories, an otolaryngology surgeon at the University Institute against Cancer in Toulouse.

Causes: alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco are the two main causes of cancer of the palate. "The combination of the two intoxications multiplies the risk," warns Agnès Dupret-Bories.

Symptoms: pain, bleeding...

In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms of palate cancer may be absent, and the discovery of a small lesion inside the mouth may be the only physical sign.

Afterwards, several symptoms can alert about the appearance of this cancer:

  • pain,
  • dental mobility,
  • a hemorrhage,
  • weight loss,
  • a visible injury that persists,
  • a difficulty with the placement of the brakes,
  • of the cervical lymph nodes.

Diagnosis: MRI, blood tests, computerized tomography...

The diagnosis of palate cancer is made on the basis of information provided by the patient and after examination of clinical signs. A dentist can detect suspicious lesions of the palate, particularly in the context of alcohol and tobacco abuse.

To confirm the diagnosis of cancer of the palate, it is necessary to take a sample of the lesion: this is a biopsy, which must be performed under local or even general anesthesia.

A clinical ENT exam should also be performed. "A CT scan and often an MRI are also performed as part of the checkup.

Treatments: radiotherapy, surgery...

In general, the treatment will depend on the size of the tumor and the results of the evaluation of its extension.

Patients can undergo "surgery that consists of removing a large part of the cancer with, depending on the size, a reconstruction that can be performed at the same time," details Agnès Dupret-Bories, who adds: "During this surgery, the lymph nodes contained in the fatty tissue of the neck are often removed. It is a removal of the cervix.

"Depending on the results of the tumor and lymph node analysis, treatment may be completed with radiation therapy or radiochemotherapy.

In the case of patients who cannot be operated on, the treatment will consist directly of radio (chemo) therapy.

"You also have to deal with addictions (alcohol, tobacco) if there are any," adds Agnès Dupret-Bories.

Prognosis: can you die from cancer of the palate?

If the palate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the prognosis is very good with more than 80% chance of survival 5 years later.

"Unfortunately, as with all ENT cancers, it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage.

It then requires more mutilating surgery and with a poorer survival of about 50% 5 years after diagnosis," continues Agnès Dupret-Bories.

However, the trend is towards an improvement in prognosis, particularly by making general practitioners and dentists more aware of the need to detect injuries early and also by providing more curative care to patients over 75 years of age.


Cancer of the palate can usually be prevented by quitting smoking and alcohol consumption.

But prevention also implies "consulting a physician and an otolaryngologist when clinical signs appear for early detection," concludes Agnès Dupret-Bories.

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