There are benign and dangerous causes of a bump on the roof of your mouth.

What makes this situation vexing is that often, you cannot see the bump but can only feel it.

If you’re feeling a strange bump (either with your tongue or finger) on the roof of your mouth, it COULD be cancer.

But – statistically, it’s far more likely to be harmless.

However, it’s natural to want to know about dangerous causes of bumps or lumps on the roof of your mouth – especially if you’re a smoker, chew tobacco or drink alcohol – all significant risk factors for oral cancer.

But non-tobacco users can get oral cancer, too.

When to Worry About Bump on the Roof of Your Mouth

• It has red and white patches and/or is very dark.

• It’s still there after two weeks.

• It hurts a lot, though oral cancer may be painless, too.

• You have other new symptoms such as fever, fatigue, nausea, unexplained weight loss, loss of appetite, numbness in the mouth, persistent stuck feeling in the throat, difficulty swallowing, or some other oddball symptom that you can’t explain.

“If it’s bleeding, painful, growing or changing in any way,” sums up Adam J. Mamelak, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Sanova Dermatology in Austin, TX.

Additional Concerning Symptoms with a Bump on the Roof of One’s Mouth

• Ear pain
• Sore throat
• Hoarse voice
• Cough

WARNING: Oral cancer isn’t the only malignancy that has the potential to cause a bump on the roof of one’s mouth!

So if you’ve never smoked or drank, you will need to know what other cancers can cause this symptom.

• Squamous cell carcinoma. Awareness for this disease focuses on development in the skin, but it can also arise in the oral cavity where squamous cells are present.

• Verrucous carcinoma. This rarely spreads beyond the oral cavity but nevertheless, it’s still malignant.

• Palate cancer. If the bump seems to correlate with new symptoms of really bad breath, loose teeth, changes in speech and difficulty opening the jaw, it’s time to worry and make a doctor appointment stat.

• Salivary gland tumor.

Benign Causes

Causes of a bump on the roof of your mouth, that are not related to cancer, may still need prompt medical treatment – but they’re nothing to lose sleep over.

• Torus palatinus (may hurt or disrupt swallowing)
• Mucocele (may hurt)
• Anything that hurts or is bothersome

Here are additional possible causes of a bump on the rooftop of your mouth, but some of these conditions rarely end up in that location.

Don’t let the suffix “oma” scare you, either. “Oma” does not mean cancer. It means mass – and a mass can be benign. A benign tumor may still need surgical removal.

• Canker sore

• Enlarged incisive papilla

• Condyloma acuminatum (type of wart)

• Epstein pearl

• Fibroma

• Keratoacanthoma

• Leiomyoma

• Neurofribroma

• Nicotine stomatitis (caused by smoking; will not lead to cancer)

• Osteochondroma

• Papilloma

• Pyogenic granuloma

If you’ve never smoked or drank, this is reassurance that the new, stubborn bump or lump on the roof of your mouth PROBABLY is not cancer. Probably not. Probably not. Not likely. But not impossible!

But whether you’ve never smoked/drank or not, get it checked if it’s still there after two weeks. Again, nonsmokers and nondrinkers can get oral cancer.

Oral cancer, however, is uncommon, which means more times than not, a bump on the roof of a smoker’s or drinker’s mouth is not cancer. But remember that two-week rule!

Dr. Mamelak focuses on the full breadth of dermatologic care, from cosmetic skin solutions to advanced skin cancer removal. He’s founder of the Austin Mohs Surgery Center, which is dedicated to the treatment and management of skin cancer.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Alexander Raths