Tongue cancer is a subgroup of head and neck cancer. Cancer develops from the squamous cells of the tongue, forming a localized tumor. Cancer cells have the potential to grow and spread.
Tongue cancer is often grouped with other mouth cancers, such as cancer of the lips, hard palate, cheek lining, the portion of the mouth underneath the front of the tongue, or gums. These cancers are collectively known as oral cancer.
|Cancer of the Tongue|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
Cancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths can invade nearby tissues including the lymph nodes. Cancer that has invaded the lymph nodes can then spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells, but is probably a combination of genetics and environment. Changes may occur as a result of:
- Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or a pipe
- Use of chewing tobacco, snuff, or other tobacco products
- Heavy alcohol consumption
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. A physical exam will be done. This may include examining your tongue for lumps or masses. A fiberoptic scope may be used.
- Your tongue tissue may need to be tested. This can be done with biopsy.
Images may need to be taken. This can be done with:
- CT scan
The physical exam, combined with all of your test results, will help to determine the type and stage of cancer you have. Staging is used to guide your treatment plan. Like other cancers, tongue cancer is staged from I-IV. Stage I is a very localized cancer, while stage IV indicates a spread to other parts of the body
Tongue cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, and 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 less than 2 centimeters, and when it is on one side and does not involve the base of the tongue.
This is the use of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation therapy is used when the cancer is at the back of the tongue.
Chemotherapy is sometimes used with radiation to destroy the cancerous growth, especially if surgery is not planned.
Rehabilitation and Follow-Up
After treatment, your doctor may recommend:
- Therapy to improve tongue movement, chewing, and swallowing
- Speech therapy, if use of the tongue is affected
- Close monitoring of your mouth, throat, esophagus, and lungs to see if the cancer has come back or spread
To help reduce your chance of tongue cancer:
- Do not smoke or use tobacco products. If you do smoke or use tobacco products, talk to your doctor about how you can quit.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Moderate drinking is a maximum of 2 drinks per day for men and a maximum of 1 drink per day for women.
- See your doctor regularly for check-ups and cancer screening exams.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
Copyright © EBSCO Information Services
All rights reserved.
a (Cancer, Tongue)
American Cancer Society https://www.cancer.org
National Cancer Institute https://www.cancer.gov
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Head and neck cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115660/Head-and-neck-cancer . Updated August 30, 2017. Accessed October 6, 2017.
Head and neck cancer—for patients. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/head-and-neck. Accessed October 6, 2017.
Tongue cancer. Cancer Research UK website. Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/mouth-cancer/stages-types-grades/tongue-cancer. Accessed October 6, 2017.