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Hard Palate Cancer

Hard palate cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that begins when cells that make up the bony part of the roof of the mouth grow out of control and form lesions or tumors.

The hard palate creates a barrier between the mouth and the nasal cavity. Cancers that develop there tend to spread into the nasal cavity when they become more advanced.

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Using tobacco products and regularly drinking too much alcohol can increase your chances for developing hard palate cancer. Dentists are typically the first to notice the signs of hard palate cancer, often during a routine dental exam.

The most common sign of hard palate cancer is an ulcer on the roof of the mouth. As the cancer grows, the ulcer may bleed.

Other symptoms of hard palate cancer include the following:

  • bad breath
  • loose teeth or pain around your teeth
  • dentures that no longer fit
  • changes in speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • difficulty moving your jaw
  • a lump in the neck

Hard Palate Cancer Treatment

Hard palate cancer is highly curable when diagnosed early. Treatment often involves surgery performed by a head and neck cancer surgeon.

The goals of the treatment of hard palate cancer are to:

  • cure the cancer
  • preserve your appearance and the functions of your mouth
  • prevent the cancer from coming back

The extent and depth of the cancer guides your plan of care. An operation called a maxillectomy is often part of the treatment.

If the cancer is more advanced, radiation, chemotherapy, or both may be used to shrink the tumor before or after surgery. This reduces the risk of the cancer coming back. For some people, radiation may be the only treatment needed.

Memorial Sloan Kettering head and neck surgeon Bhuvanesh Singh removes cancer from the mouth
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