Tongue Cancer


The tongue is made of two parts mainly the oral and the base. The tongue cancer can affect any of the part.

Tongue Cancer is a malignant tumor that initially appears as a small lump, a firm white patch, or a sore which is ulcer like on the tongue.

As the tongue cancer advances it spreads to the other parts of the mouth like the floor of the mouth the, the jaws or the gum if no treatment given.

The tumor becomes life threatening by metastasizing of spreading to lymph nodes in the neck and later to the rest of the body.

There are two parts to the tongue, the oral tongue and the base of the tongue. Tongue cancer can develop in either part. Cancers that develop in this part of the tongue come under a group of cancers called mouth cancer (or Oral cancer).

Causes of Tongue Cancer

The exact cause of tongue cancer, head and neck cancers is unknown. But there are several risk factors associated with the development of the disease which include smoking tobacco, smokeless tobacco, and heavy alcohol intake.

In some cases the cause of tongue cancer is doubted to be dentures. Men are said to be at high risk than women and this disease affects people over age 40.

The main cause of tongue cancer in the Asian countries is chewing tobacco or betel quid with tobacco. This results in mouth cancer, esophageal and throat or pharyngeal cancers in these countries. Other definite risk factors include:

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

Tongue Cancer Symptoms

The most common symptoms of the tongue cancer include the tumors in the base of the tongue which make swallowing difficult, pain in the ear a condition called otalgia may also occur and a mass in the neck. The mass is usually due to metastases that can be felt in some of the tongue cancer cases during diagnosis.

Tongue Cancer Treatment

The tongue cancer treatment may involve a combination of methods (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy) and may need to be aggressive. Surgery is the best method of treating tongue cancer in cases where the tumors are small.

Also radiation therapy can be used for treating these small tumors. In some cases metastasis may also occur where the tumor spreads to the lymph nodes of the neck then a prompt treatment is very essential.

As any small change in the tongue can be detected easily the tongue cancer early detection is quite possible therefore the prognosis or the chances of recovery are very good. If the cancer is detected before it is advanced than the better cure after treatment is possible.

Overall tongue cancer survival rate ranges from 50-65%, with improved survival with early-stage disease. In advanced cases as well the survival rate is good due to the advanced treatment techniques. According to the statistics in about 80% patients of tongue cancer the larynx can be preserved.