Oral tongue cancer is a serious form of cancer that begins in the tongue or mouth.
The cancer may develop in the gum or cheek and spread to the tongue, or it could develop in the tongue itself.
Tongue cancer is found most often in patients with a history or chewing smokeless tobacco, or patients with a history of alcohol abuse.
The cancer may present itself as an ulcer, white spot, or lump on, or in, the tongue. If left untreated, the disease can be deadly. However, with early identification and treatment, tongue cancer can be eliminated.
Diagnosing Oral Tongue Cancer
If your doctor suspects that you may have oral tongue cancer they may want to complete a series of tests to confirm their diagnosis. Most doctors will start by taking a biopsy, or small sample, of the tissue in the tongue.
This tissue can be examined in the lab to determine if the cells that make up the tissue are cancerous. You doctor might also request a CT scan or MRI to determine if there are tumors, or lumps, within the mouth that are not visible.
These tests will also help to determine whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, located near the mouth.
Treating Oral Tongue Cancer
Oral tongue cancer is often treated with radiation, or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy is completed by exposing your tongue to radioactive waves, or isotopes, which will kill the cancerous cells.
This may be done with an X-ray machine, or by orally administering the radioactive material to the tongue.
Chemotherapy is usually reserved for use in patients who have cancer spread to the lymph nodes, or to other organs that are located nearby. Chemotherapy uses a combination of drugs that are injected, or taken orally, to combat the oral tongue cancer.
Surgery Options for Oral Tongue Cancer
Surgery is an option for removing oral tongue cancer. However, the type of surgery, and the amount of the tongue that has to be removed, will depend on the stage and severity of the cancer.
Small tumors or cancer clusters may be removed with a laser, while more advanced tongue cancer, which has spread into the lymph nodes, may require portions or the tongue, neck or face to be removed.
With laser surgery you may experience little or no change in the movement of the tongue, or loss of speech.
However, if a more invasive surgery is needed, you may have to undergo reconstruction surgery to correct your physical appearance. It is also common to require help with speech therapy, physical therapy, or swallowing therapy.
The best way to treat oral tongue cancer is to find it early. When your cancer is diagnosed early, the options available for treatment are much safer and less invasive.
If you regularly experience sores in your mouth, or on your tongue that won’t go away, you should contact your physician immediately. With a simple test, you can set your mind at ease, or find treatment that can quickly get rid of the cancerous cells.