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.

Expertise and rankings

Mayo Clinic doctors are widely respected for their experience and expertise in diagnosing and treating tonsil cancers.

Your Mayo Clinic care team

At Mayo Clinic, ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists (otorhinolaryngologists) work as a team with radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, dietitians and plastic surgeons to care for people with soft palate cancer. Other professionals are included as needed. A multidisciplinary clinic run by ENT surgeons specializing in head and neck cancer is conducted weekly to provide comprehensive care for people with tonsil and palate cancers.

Advanced diagnosis and treatment

Mayo Clinic doctors have access to the latest treatment technology. For instance, Mayo Clinic surgeons may use transoral robotic surgery to remove soft palate cancers. Mayo Clinic radiation oncologists use highly focused radiation techniques, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy, to target cancer cells.

Mayo Clinic doctors will work with you to review all of your treatment options and choose the treatment that best suits your needs and goals. The range of treatments offered to people with soft palate cancer includes radiation, chemotherapy and several surgical procedures, including minimally invasive and traditional operations.

Nationally ranked expertise

Mayo Clinic doctors have extensive experience diagnosing and treating soft palate cancer. Each year, Mayo Clinic doctors care for about 20 people with soft palate cancer.

The Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which recognizes scientific excellence and a multidisciplinary approach to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Locations, travel and lodging

Mayo Clinic has major campuses in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona; Jacksonville, Florida; and Rochester, Minnesota. The Mayo Clinic Health System has dozens of locations in several states.

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Costs and insurance

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people.

In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals, or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

Learn more about appointments at Mayo Clinic.

Please contact your insurance company to verify medical coverage and to obtain any needed authorization prior to your visit. Often, your insurer's customer service number is printed on the back of your insurance card.