Tongue cancer is a subgroup of head and neck cancer. Cancer develops from the squamous cells of the tongue. This leads to a local tumor growth, and it later spreads.
Cancer occurs when cells in the body (in this case, tongue cells) divide without control or order. Normally, cells divide in a regulated manner. If cells keep dividing uncontrollably when new cells are not needed, a mass of tissue forms, called a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant tumors, which can invade nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body. A benign tumor usually does not invade or spread.
Tongue cancer is often grouped with other mouth cancers, such as cancer of the lips, hard palate, cheek lining, floor of the mouth (portion of the mouth underneath the front of the tongue), or gums. These cancers are collectively known as oral cavity cancer.
These factors increase your chance of developing tongue cancer. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Poor oral and dental hygiene
Age: 40 and over
Irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth due to smoking and drinking
History of mouth ulcers
Family history due to genetic predisposition
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to tongue cancer. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
Skin lesion, lump, or ulcer on the tongue
Mouth sores and mouth pain
Numbness or difficulty moving the tongue
Change in speech (due to inability to move the tongue over the teeth when speaking)
Pain when chewing and speaking
Bleeding from the tongue
Tongue cancer may be detected by your dentist during a routine dental cleaning, or by your doctor during a routine physical exam.
To confirm diagnosis, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. This may include:
Examination of your tongue for lumps or masses
Use of a fiberoptic scope—a thin tube with a tiny camera to examine the base of the tongue
—removal of a sample of tongue tissue to test for cancer cells
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of the mouth
to determine if the cancer has spread to the lungs
Once tongue cancer is found, staging tests are done to find out if the cancer has spread. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, as well as the size and location of the tumor.
This is surgical removal of the cancerous tumor and nearby tissue, and possibly nearby lymph nodes. This is often the preferred treatment when the tumor is on the visible side of the tongue, when it is quite small (less than 2 cm), and when it is lateralized to one side and does not involve the base of the tongue.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a