Tongue Cancer

1 What is Tongue Cancer?

Tongue cancer is the cancer development (abnormal cell growth) in the tongue. It is often disturbing since, tongue helps to taste food and stimulate hunger center.

This cancer may change the abilities to taste. It mostly occurs in the front two-third of tongue.

2 Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of tongue cancer may sometimes be confused with flu or persistent sore. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Persistent tongue/jaw pain.
  • A lump or thickening in the inside of tongue.
  • A white or reddish patch on gums, tongue, tonsils or lining of mouth; sore throat feeling, difficulty swallowing and difficulty in moving jaw or tongue.

3 Causes

Excessive tobacco use and alcohol consumption are the common causes of tongue cancer.

Several types of cancer can affect the tongue but most often cancer begins with thin, flat squamous cells that line the tongue surface.

It is important to determine the type of cells involved which will help to decide the prognosis and treatment.

Nowadays, base of tongue cancer is mostly connected to Human papillomavirus (HPV).

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of tongue cancer is never easy. It is similar to many similar looking condition like hyperplasia (increase in number of cells). The cancer of anterior part of tongue can be easily detected at early stages but the base of tongue are diagnosed at advanced stages, when the tumor has spread to lymph nodes.

Physical examination of the tongue and lymph nodes nearby is often not enough but is conventionally started with.

Some additional tests include:

  • Blood test for markers of cancer.
  • Biopsy where the impaired tissue is taken for further laboratory and pathological investigations.

5 Treatment

Treatment depends on the location and stage of tongue cancer. The following treatment options are available:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer along some part of healthy tissue surrounding it.
  • Chemotherapy in which certain drugs affect the growth of cancer.
  • Radiation therapy in which ionizing radiation is used to kill the dividing cells of cancer and targeted drug therapy in which drugs are targeted to specific cancer cells.

6 Prevention

Prevention to some extent of tongue cancer can be done by avoiding use of tobacco and alcohol consumption. But otherwise, cancer sometimes in inevitable.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with tongue cancer.

The diagnosis of cancer is devastating since most often the outcome of cancer is death. Therefore, it is important for people with such conditions to keep patience and follow doctor’s instructions carefully and follow the course of medications or other procedure properly without any mistake.

Tongue cancer can affect the ability to speak and eat.

Joining special rehabilitation team can help to cope with the situation.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with tongue cancer.

Risk factors include:

  • A family history of cancer.
  • Intake of tobacco.
  • Heavy drinking.
  • Smoking
  • Exposure to different kinds of radiation and certain poisons.

Complications of tongue cancer depends on whether the cancer has spread or not. Advanced stages of cancer which are characterized by spreading of cancer to the lymph nodes which results in decreased immunity, decrease in number of healthy cells, infection by opportunistic diseases and may even lead to death.

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