Tongue Cancer Treatment

There are several options of tongue cancer treatment are available for treating this cancer.

Tongue cancer occurs as a malignant tumor that begins as a small lump, a firm white patch, or a sore (ulcer) on the tongue.

As the disease advances the tumor spreads to the other parts of the mouth like the floor of the mouth and to the gum or the jaws.

If left untreated the tumor becomes more life threatening by spreading or metastasizing to lymph nodes in the neck and later to the rest of the body. The risk of metastasis is quite small but if metastases do occur, usually to the neck, they require prompt therapy.

Three-quarters of these tumors are small and the tongue cancer treatment can be done effectively by surgery or radiation. The tongue is broadly divided into two main parts the oral tongue and the base of the tongue.

Tongue cancer can develop in either part. The cancers that develop in the oral part of the tongue come under a group of cancers called mouth (oral) cancer.

Causes of Tongue Cancer

The most common and the most serious type of mouth cancers is the tongue cancer. It mainly occurs in people who smoke cigarettes, pipes, or cigars or use smokeless tobacco. The combination of the risk factors such as use of tobacco and larger amount of alcohol consumption tremendously increases the risk of developing the disease.

The exact tongue cancer cause, head and neck cancers is unknown. But several risk factors have been identified to be the tongue cancer causes. Chewing tobacco or betel quid with tobacco is very common in parts of Asian countries and is known to be a main tongue cancer cause and the other mouth cancers as well like the esophageal and throat or pharyngeal cancers. Other definite risk factors include:

  • Poor diet
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Being exposed to some chemicals
  • Viruses
  • Acid reflux
  • Sunlight

Various Tongue Cancer Treatment Options

Tongue cancer treatment is based on the stage of the disease when it is diagnosed. The stage of the tongue cancer is designated based on the size and how far the tumor has extended or spread.

The main standard methods of tongue cancer treatment are the radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and surgery. These tongue cancer treatments may be used in combination or single. After the various appropriate treatments are given to the patient later a speech therapist is needed to improve the patient’s speech function and swallowing capabilities.

The best tongue cancer treatment for small or very small tumors is surgery.  In case of larger tumors which have spread to the lymph nodes in the neck a combination treatment including the surgery and radiation therapy may be used.

Sometimes in advanced cases the lymph nodes on both the sides of the neck which are diseased are removed. This type of surgery is called radical neck dissection.

This extensive method of surgical tongue cancer treatment helps to lower the risk of the tongue cancer recurring. After this the radiation therapy is given to ensure no cancer cells are left behind after the surgery.

Complete removal of the tongue is done in very advanced cases where the tongue cancer has grown so big that it affects most of the tongue, this method is called the glossectomy.  Before going for this option the doctors try the radiation therapy and the chemotherapy in order to omit the patient from loss of speech.

And also swallowing becomes very difficult without the tongue. Maximum efforts are made to shrink the tongue cancer as much as possible before this surgery.