Tongue Cancer: An overview

Tongue Cancer: An overview

What Is Tongue Cancer?

Tongue cancer is a type of cancer that affects the different types of cells of the tongue. There are many types of tongue cancers. They are differentiated and diagnosed based on the type of cells that are affected. Tongue cancer can be considered a type of head and neck cancer. It can occur at the base of the tongue (near the throat) or in the oral part of the tongue. Symptoms and treatment also vary depending on the position of cancer on the tongue. Sometimes tongue cancers can be associated with a viral infection due to the Human papillomavirus (HPV).

What are the symptoms of tongue cancer?

Tongue cancer symptoms depend on the area where the cancer is located. The most common early tongue cancer symptom is a sore on the tongue that does not heal and can bleed. Other symptoms include pain while swallowing, sore throat, mouth numbness, and a lump on the tongue.

symptoms of tongue cancer

What Causes Tongue Cancer?

The exact cause of tongue cancer is unknown, but certain behaviours and conditions can increase the risk which include:

  • Smoking
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Family history of tongue cancer
  • Poor oral hygiene 
  • Poor quality of diet that is low in fruits and vegetables.
  • History of other types of cancers

How Many Stages are there in Tongue Cancer?

There are five tongue cancer stages, starting from 0 to 4. 

  • Stage 0 is the beginning of cancer which is usually an abnormality that has the potential to be cancer.
  • Stage 1 to 3 is defined by the size of the tumour.
  • Stage 4 is when cancer spreads to other parts.
How to Detect Tongue Cancer?

A physician performs a physical examination first to check for signs of cancer, followed by various laboratory examinations to confirm the diagnosis of tongue cancer. Some of the tests include X-ray, CT, MRI, tongue biopsy, HPV test, tongue scrape biopsy, endoscopy, barium swallow, and PET-CT scan. All of them are not required for diagnosis.

Detect Tongue Cancer

What is the Treatment for Tongue Cancer?

Tongue cancer treatment depends on the size of the tumour. Surgery is most commonly done to remove the tumour, especially if it is on the front part of the tongue. If it is on the back of the throat part of the tongue, it requires a combination of radiation and chemotherapy.

Is Tongue Cancer Curable?

If detected in its early stages, tongue cancer has a high chance of being curable. However, if tongue cancer is not detected early enough, it can spread to other parts of the body and be fatal. It will be extremely difficult to treat once it has spread.

Can tongue cancer recur after treatment?

It depends on the type of tongue cancer. If the tongue cancer is poorly differentiated, meaning the type of cells that are affected are not clear, then the chances of recurrence are high. Such cancers can come back even after surgery. Well-differentiated cancer has a low chance of coming back.

Does tongue cancer hurt?

Tongue cancer most commonly begins as a sore on the mouth, which can be very painful. Other noticeable signs such as lumps and ulcers on the tongue can also hurt. Depending on the position of cancer on the tongue, you can feel painful symptoms like sore throat, pain while swallowing, etc.

Is tongue cancer fatal?

Tongue cancer can be fatal if it is not detected and treated in the early stages. Without immediate treatment and surgery, cancer can likely spread to other organs. During the advanced stage, even surgery or chemotherapy cannot remove all the cancer cells.

Is tongue cancer contagious?

Tongue cancer is not contagious. They do not spread from person to person by touching. Some cancers can be caused by certain viral infections. These viruses can spread to other people, which has the potential to cause cancer. But, it is not common.

Can smoking cause tongue cancer?

Yes, smoking cigarettes is one of the most common causes of tongue and oral cancers. Tobacco contains carcinogens (agents that are responsible for causing cancers). These substances highly increase the risk of various cancers, including tongue cancer. Smoking is also responsible for other types of cancers. 

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