Radiation therapy, including intensity modulated radiation therapy, stops cancer cells from dividing and slows the growth of the tumor. Radiotherapy also destroys cancer cells and can shrink or eliminate tumors. Intensity modulated radiation therapy allows the use of more effective radiation doses with fewer side effects than conventional radiotherapy techniques.
Radiation therapy involves 5-6 weeks of daily treatments.
Chemotherapy is prescribed for different reasons:
- Together with radiotherapy as an alternative to surgery (called chemoradiation)
- After surgery to decrease the risk of the cancer returning
- To slow the growth of a tumor and control symptoms when the cancer cannot be cured (palliative treatment)
A combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy (chemoradiation) is an effective treatment.
Radiation therapy used alone or with chemotherapy is the primary treatment for moderate or advanced cancers in order to preserve the soft palate and its function.
Radiotherapy can be combined with chemotherapy and surgery.
Treatments for Cancer of the Soft Palate
Laser microsurgery is used for small and medium-sized tumors in the soft palate. The surgeon looks at the soft palate, through the mouth and nose, using a special instrument. After the surgeon locates the tumor, a laser is used to divide the tumor into sections. The sections are then removed and a pathologist examines the cells for cancer.
Transoral laser microsurgery can preserve normal tissues, causes less pain, and help maintain speech and swallowing.
Treatments for Cancer of the Hard Palate
Surgery is the preferred treatment for cancer of the hard palate. The bone closest to the tumor often contains cancer cells and part of it may also need to be removed. If the tumor is small, the excised area can easily be closed after surgery.
If the tumor is large, the excised area cannot be closed and a prosthetic device is needed to cover the opening in the roof of the mouth. The prosthesis looks similar to a denture plate.
If the lymph nodes in the neck are affected a neck dissection may be needed to remove the nodes.