Tongue Cancer

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Tongue is the muscular organ in the oral cavity that is covered with taste receptors and also helps in mastication by adjusting food in the mouth during chewing.  The tongue has two parts, the oral part that’s easily seen in the mouth and the pharyngeal part lies in the pharynx.

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that invade and damage surrounding tissues. Tongue cancer can be oral or pharyngeal, developing in the squamous cells; the thin, flat cells that cover the tongue surface.  Tongue cancer is the most common kind of oral cancer and can be fatal without proper diagnosis and treatment. [1]

Tongue Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

A variety of symptoms appear in the course of the disease. Most common is the appearance of a red or white patch on tongue and a persistent sore throat. A lot of people tend to ignore it in the start thinking as a common cold or an infection. So, when visiting your doctor make sure you mention the duration of your ulcer and sore throat. Other symptoms may include pain on swallowing, numbness in mouth, bleeding from tongue due to causes other than injury and change in voice.

On physical examination, your doctor might notice a long standing ulcer or lump, difficulty moving the jaw or tongue, pain in posterior part of ear and enlarged neck lymph nodes

Sudden weight loss, is a very common symptom pointing towards any kind of cancer and should mentioned when you visit your doctor. [2]

Risk factors and causes of Tongue Cancer

Statistically, tongue cancer is found in more frequently in males, generally over 40years of age. But, tobacco is found to be associated with 75% cases of oral cancer. It contains over 60 known carcinogens and most commonly prevalent in Asian countries. Alcohol, tends to increase the risk by 6 times. A combination of alcohol and tobacco is even more detrimental.

In 2010, there were 52·8 million deaths globally. At the most aggregate level, communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional causes were 24·9% of deaths worldwide in 2010, down from 15·9 million (34·1%) of 46·5 million in 1990. [3]

Constant irritation from ill fitting dental prosthesis, should be considered as a cause of worry as it’s another risk factor. Poor oral hygiene, Human papilloma virus (HPV), particularly type 16 and a history of hematopoietic stem cell transplant increases susceptibility and are among other risk factors. Also the cancer is more aggressive and responds poorly to treatment. [4]

Diagnosis of Tongue Cancer

A professional examines the mouth, assesses the symptoms and performs a variety of screening tests including; X-rays, MRI, CT scans and tissue biopsy.

Management of Tongue Cancer

Surgical removal of the tumour paired with radiotherapy and chemotherapy, depending upon the location and extension of the lesion is the most preferred approach.

Reconstructive surgery including bone grafts and prosthesis to atone the cosmetic and functional loss maybe required for the larger lesions.

Prognosis of Tongue Cancer

Prognosis will overall depend on the stage of cancer and the patient’s health. Other effects can be: Disfigurement after excision, the side effects of radio therapy and metastasis of the cancer. [2]





[3] Lozano, R; Naghavi, M; Foreman, K; Lim, S; Shibuya, K; Aboyans, V; Abraham, J; Adair, T; Aggarwal, R; Ahn, SY; Alvarado, M; Anderson, HR; Anderson, LM; Andrews, KG; Atkinson, C; Baddour, LM; Barker-Collo, S; Bartels, DH; Bell, ML; Benjamin, EJ; Bennett, D; Bhalla, K; Bikbov, B; Bin Abdulhak, A; Birbeck, G; Blyth, F; Bolliger, I; Boufous, S; Bucello, C et al. (Dec 15, 2012). “Global and regional mortality from 235 causes of death for 20 age groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010”. Lancet 380 (9859): 2095–128. doi:10.1016,