Soft palate cancer care at Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic experts offer compassionate, whole-person care to those with soft palate cancer.

Diagnosis at Mayo Clinic

Tests and procedures used to diagnose soft palate cancer include:

  • Examining your soft palate. Your doctor will use a mirror or tiny camera to examine your soft palate and other structures in your throat.
  • Removing a tissue sample for testing. Your doctor will remove an area of suspicious tissue and send it to a lab for testing. In the lab, specially trained doctors (pathologists) will look for signs of cancer.
  • Taking imaging tests. To better understand the size of your cancer and to look for signs that cancer may have spread beyond your soft palate, your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET).

Treatment at Mayo Clinic

Treatment for soft palate cancer depends on many factors, such as the size and location of your cancer, your overall health and your preferences. Treatment options may include:

  • Surgery. During surgery for soft palate cancer, skilled surgeons trained in removing throat cancers will work to remove your cancer.

    If the cancer is small, it may be removed during a short operation that won't require a hospital stay. Larger cancers may require more-extensive operations. When the cancer has spread to the neck lymph nodes, lymph node removal may be necessary.

    Mayo Clinic's innovative surgical techniques can remove the cancer and provide the best possible function. For example, in transoral robotic surgery, which is less invasive than conventional surgery, skilled surgeons use special instruments to view the soft palate through the mouth and nose.

  • Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy can be used alone or with chemotherapy or surgery to treat soft palate cancers of all stages.

    Highly skilled radiation oncologists provide state-of-the-art radiation therapy at Mayo Clinic, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy, 3-D conformal radiation, stereotactic radiosurgery, brachytherapy and small field conformal radiation therapy.

  • Chemotherapy. Experienced medical oncologists prescribe chemotherapy — which can be administered through a vein, by mouth or both — to treat soft palate cancer that has spread beyond the throat. Chemotherapy may also be combined with radiation therapy.
  • Reconstructive surgery. Depending on the location and spread of the cancer, reconstructive surgery may be necessary. Experienced surgeons work to improve appearance and function through reconstruction of the soft palate to restore speech and swallowing function.
  • Rehabilitative services. To assist in recovery, health care providers at Mayo Clinic offer many rehabilitative services, including speech therapy, dietary counseling, and physical and occupational therapy. In addition, the Nicotine Dependence Center can help people who want to stop using tobacco.
  • Palliative care. Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on providing relief from pain and other symptoms of a serious illness. At Mayo Clinic, palliative care specialists work with you, your family and your other doctors to provide an extra layer of support that complements your ongoing care.