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Tongue Cancer
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How To Identify Tongue Cancer In Case Of Signs And Symptoms

Ramanujam is a 47-year-old man living in Hyderabad. Over the past few days, he has been experiencing difficulty swallowing food. His mouth and tongue are also full of ulcers. He got himself checked with a doctor. After a few tests, the doctor confirmed that these are all symptoms of tongue cancer. The doctor, however, said not to panic much, as his is an early-stage tongue cancer, which is highly curable.

Tongue Cancer

Tongue cancer is often caused due to the growth of thin and flat squamous cells at the lining of the tongue. Early detection is vital to curing tongue cancer. Tongue cancer can occur not just in the throat, but in the mouth as well. Ramanujam was lucky to detect tongue cancer in its early stage. He is now a successful cancer survivor to inspire others. 

Let us dig deeper to understand all about the base of tongue cancer symptoms and other signs of tongue cancer.

What Is Tongue Cancer?

Tongue cancer is a type of oral cancer that develops due to the growth of squamous cells on the tongue lining. The most common symptom of tongue cancer is when your tongue pains and takes time to heal. Tongue cancer usually develops on the front side of the tongue. Cancer that develops at the backside of the tongue is called Oropharyngeal cancer. 

Stages of Tongue Cancer

Tongue cancer is classified into three main stages. These stages are categorized based on how much cancer has spread or is present in your body. 

The three stages of tongue cancer are:

  1. Low-Grade Stage: It is an early-stage tongue cancer and highly curable if detected on time. 
  2. Moderate Stage: In this stage, tongue cancer starts growing and is most likely to spread soon, if left untreated.
  3. High-Grade Stage: This is the last stage of tongue cancer and it spreads to other parts of the body making it most difficult to cure. 


Causes of Tongue Cancer

Although, the exact causes of tongue cancer are still unknown. But the following habits and reasons are risk factors that may lead to this form of oral cancer:

  • Chewing tobacco
  • Smoking
  • Consuming excessive alcohol
  • Family history of tongue or oral cancer
  • Previous history of cancers like squamous cell cancer
  • HPV or Human Papillomavirus infection
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables but high in processed foods and red meat


Other Risk Factors

  • Exposure to harmful chemicals like asbestos, formaldehyde, and sulfuric acid
  • GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Poor Oral Hygiene
  • Chewing Betel


12 Common Signs of Tongue Cancer

Try to detect early-stage tongue cancer to make it more curable. If you experience the following signs, do consult a doctor and get tested for tongue cancer:

  1. Sore throat and difficulty swallowing anything
  2. Sores and mouth ulcers
  3. Red or white patches on the tongue
  4. Hoarse voice
  5. Painful tongue
  6. Pain in the ear or neck
  7. Lump in the mouth
  8. Dentures not fitting properly
  9. Swelling in the affected area
  10. Mouth lining thickens
  11. Bleeding from the tongue
  12. Stiff tongue or jaw


Also Read: How To Spot Bone Cancer Symptoms?

Diagnosis of Tongue Cancer

If you detect any of the above-mentioned tongue cancer symptoms, make no delay in consulting a doctor for a thorough diagnosis. Your doctor may ask you about your and your family’s medical history. The doctor will also examine your mouth and tongue. There will be a close examination of the lymph nodes to detect any type of enlargement or abnormality. If something abnormal is detected, you will undergo a biopsy to confirm whether it is tongue cancer or not. Besides, the doctor may also recommend an MRI or CT scan to see whether cancer has spread to other body parts or not. 

Tongue Cancer Treatment

The only successful treatment for tongue cancer is surgery. In this, the cancerous tissue is removed through surgery. For multiple tumors, there will be a requirement for multiple surgeries. Whereas, if there are smaller tumors, they can be removed in just a single surgery. If the tumor is serious, then some part of the whole tongue needs to be removed through surgery. This surgery is called Glossectomy. Some side effects of Glossectomy are difficulty in speaking, eating, swallowing, and breathing. 

Preventing Tongue Cancer

Prevention is always better than cure and if you want to keep tongue cancer at bay, follow these preventive measures:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid chewing tobacco or betel
  • Limit the intake of alcohol
  • Eat healthy diet
  • Get HPV vaccine
  • Practice Oral Hygiene


The Bottom Line

The tongue is a vital organ of the human body. It is one organ that helps us to speak, eat, and talk. Getting infected with cancer in this sense organ of the body can make life miserable. So, one should pay attention to oral hygiene and detect if anything abnormal is experienced in the tongue. It could be tongue cancer. The survival rate for those who detect early-stage tongue cancer is higher because, in this stage, this cancer is highly curable.


How does tongue cancer start? 

The exact cause of tongue cancer is still unknown. But, some conditions and lifestyle habits may put you at risk of tongue cancer like chewing tobacco, smoking, and drinking too much alcohol. 

Is tongue cancer curable?

If detected in its early stage, tongue cancer is very curable. It can turn life-threatening if not diagnosed on time and left untreated. In that case, it may spread to other parts of the mouth and body parts like the neck, head, and so on. 

What does early signs of tongue cancer look like?

Some of the early-stage tongue cancer signs are:

Painful tongue
Hoarse voice
Sore throat and difficulty swallowing
Sores and mouth ulcers
Red or white patches on the tongue
Discomfort of something lodged in the throat


What is the survival rate of tongue cancer?

The 5-year survival rate of people suffering from localized SEER stage of tongue cancer is 83%. It is 69% for the regional SEER stage, and 41% for the distant SEER stage. 

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