Tongue Cancer

By | June 10, 2022

Tongue cancer or oral cavity carcinoma is one of the rare types of tumors in the mouth. It is malignant and mostly a cancer originating in the non-keratinized mucous membrane layers of the tongue, which is presumably caused by risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, as well as chronic inflammation.

What is tongue cancer?

Tongue cancer can affect the front, movable part of the tongue as well as the solid back of the tongue. Tongue cancer develops in the squamous epithelium, which is a non-keratinized flat layer of cells that covers the mucous membranes in the mouth, throat and nose. For dubin-johnson syndrome definition and meaning, please visit

Tumor formation is not uniform. Tongue cancer can appear as a flat tumor on the mucous membrane or as a proliferating formation that is clearly visible in the mouth area. In the course of this, ulcers of the tongue develop, the tumor restricts the mobility of the tongue and thus the ability to speak. If left untreated, tongue cancer will also spread to other areas of the mouth and metastasize to the lymph nodes.


The exact causes of tongue cancer have not yet been clarified. The risk groups include men and women, with the number of men suffering from tongue cancer being significantly higher over the age of 60.

The combination of tobacco consumption and alcohol is considered a particular risk factor. The reason could be a permanent irritation of the oral mucosa, which ultimately promotes the development of tongue cancer. Chronic inflammation of the oral mucosa for other reasons also increases the risk of developing tongue cancer.

People who suffer from lichen planus nodules are also affected by tongue cancer. Poor oral hygiene with the resulting high bacterial count and inflammation also promote the development of tongue cancer.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

Tongue cancer is associated with hardly noticeable symptoms in the early stages. Symptoms that indicate a disease only gradually appear. In the advanced stage, most patients feel as if they have a foreign object in their mouth.

Contrary to what many sufferers think, pain does not only occur on the tongue. The entire mouth and throat area is affected. If, for example, liquid is consumed, irritation initially occurs, which increases as the disease progresses. Swallowing is only possible with pain. Tongue cancer is often associated with bad breath.

Brushing your teeth or using mouthwash can only provide temporary relief. Bad breath keeps coming back. Affected people often taste blood. The tongue changes in tongue cancer. She possesses boils, wounds, and spots. The latter appear in white or red contours. Bleeding can also occur.

The blood is wrongly attributed to bleeding gums by many sufferers . People with a suspicion clean their tongues with cotton wool and thus get an overview. In the advanced stage, there are difficulties in speaking. Syllables can no longer be formed clearly or only with pain. Eating food is also difficult. The lymph nodes are often enlarged.

Diagnosis & History

Painless symptoms of early tongue cancer include red or white patches that do not go away, even with good oral hygiene.

A permanent scratchy feeling in the throat indicates a tongue tumor, in rare cases also an earache. More common are sores or bleeding on the tongue, numbness, or pain when swallowing.

Tongue cancer is initially painless, but is accompanied by significant impairments as the tumor expands. The development is far advanced when there are already proliferating tumors on the tongue, which can also form ulcers.

When diagnosing tongue cancer, the doctor first visually diagnoses the front part of the tongue. The base of the tongue is examined with mirrors. Tissue samples from suspicious areas are used for the basic diagnosis of tongue cancer, which is then followed by the exact size determination in the imaging process.


Since tongue cancer is a tumor disease, in the worst case it can lead to the death of the affected person. This case occurs above all when the cancer is not recognized until very late and metastases have already formed. As a rule, those affected suffer from a very unpleasant foreign body sensation in the mouth area and on the tongue.

This leads to swallowing difficulties, so that those affected are severely prevented from eating and drinking normally. This can also lead to deficiency symptoms or dehydration. Furthermore, patients with tongue cancer also suffer from a sore throat, which cannot be alleviated with the help of medication.

Speech disorders and severe swelling of the lymph nodes can also occur and have a very negative effect on the patient’s quality of life. Most patients also suffer from severe ear pain and, as the disease progresses, from a bleeding tongue. Tongue cancer can be treated with surgery.

In most cases, subsequent chemotherapy is associated with a number of side effects. Since part of the tissue is removed, the affected person is significantly restricted when eating or speaking. If the treatment is successful, however, the life expectancy of the person affected is not negatively affected.

When should you go to the doctor?

If there is persistent pain in the mouth, there is already cause for concern. In most cases, these health problems are harmless and resolve. Repeated inflammation, discoloration or swelling indicate an existing disease. A doctor’s visit is necessary so that the cause can be clarified. If there are disturbances in sensitivity, hypersensitivity to stimuli such as heat or cold, or impairment of the ability to move the tongue, a doctor should be consulted.

A general malaise, a decrease in performance and increased tiredness are further signs of an existing health disorder. If there is a continuous increase in health problems, you need to consult a doctor. Loss of appetite, apathy and weight loss are also indications of a disease. If there are mood swings, behavioral problems and an unusual bad breath, there is a need for action.

In particular, smokers or people who regularly consume alcohol belong to the risk group for various diseases. They should have their health checked at regular intervals so that irregularities can be addressed as quickly as possible. In addition, all people should take part in the preventive check-ups offered at regular intervals in order to enable early detection of cancer or other health disorders. Bleeding of the gums or swelling of the lymph are to be interpreted as a warning signal from the organism and should be examined by a doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

With an early diagnosis of tongue cancer, treatment is carried out with surgical means. The tumor and the tissue surrounding it are removed. Additional treatment with radiation or chemotherapy is not always necessary.

If the tongue cancer has already spread further, the metastases in the lymph nodes are irradiated in addition to removing the tumor in the tongue. The physical impairments of the affected patient are usually minor in the early stages. Speech ability in tongue cancer at the front of the tongue is little or not affected at all.

After the surgical wound has healed, there are no restrictions on food and liquid intake. Advanced tongue cancer, on the other hand, requires procedures that involve removing large parts of the tongue. In addition to the painful healing of the wound, the ability to speak is then clearly and irreversibly restricted.

Food intake can also become problematic and lead to severe weight loss. Numbness as a result of radiation therapy is to be expected. In the case of inoperable tumors or advanced tongue cancer, treatment is with chemotherapy, which is intended to prevent further growth and fight metastases.


Preventive measures to prevent tongue cancer consist of ruling out the risk factors and thorough oral hygiene. The combination of alcohol and tobacco should be avoided. Thorough tooth cleaning and regular visits to the dentist to diagnose and treat inflammation of the oral mucosa also help prevent it.

Supplementing daily dental care with a special tongue cleaner is recommended. Unexplained changes in or on the tongue require a diagnosis from a specialist who can treat previous illnesses and exclude the suspicion of tongue cancer.


An essential task of the aftercare of tongue cancer is the early diagnosis of a recurrence. This is the recurrence of a carcinoma after treatment. That is why regular check-ups take place during aftercare: every three months in the first two years and every six months in the following three years.

In addition, the patient should continuously monitor changes in the mouth area and consult a doctor immediately if there are any abnormalities. To prevent a recurrence, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption should be avoided. Careful oral hygiene is also essential for prevention.

After cancer treatment, rehabilitation helps the patient recover and return to normal life. Special aftercare measures are necessary if larger pieces of tissue have to be removed from the tongue during the operation. Even if the function of a damaged tongue can usually be restored by plastic reconstruction, problems with speaking or swallowing often arise.

These patients should seek the help of speech therapists. In addition, under certain circumstances, cosmetic impairments in the mouth area can burden the psyche of the patient. This may require psychological support. Relatives can also provide valuable help for mental recovery.

You can do that yourself

Some healers tout alternative treatment options and self-help techniques for people with cancer. They don’t have to be fundamentally wrong. However, alternative treatment on one’s own responsibility is very risky. Their use by the patient should be discussed with the attending physician. The doctor will weigh up with the patient whether additional treatment makes sense.

The patient can also take measures to support medical treatment and improve their quality of life during treatment. For tongue cancer, this includes abstaining from alcohol and smoking and being careful with oral hygiene. The diet should be balanced: rich in fiber, vegetables and omega-3 fats. If you lose your appetite during chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you should feast generously with a clear conscience on days when your appetite is high. If food intake is limited as a result of the operation, high-calorie liquid food from the pharmacy can be usedremedy. This can alleviate weight loss and weakness. Plenty of rest and gentle exercise can improve general well-being.

Many patients suffer psychologically from the threat of cancer. The patient can improve their emotional well-being by confiding in a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist. Social and emotional support from family and friends is also helpful. Many patients also find practicing a relaxation technique or meditation positive for mental and physical well-being.

Tongue Cancer