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Tongue cancer is today seen an increase in occurrence among people all over the world. This is one of the unique types of oral or mouth cancers. Like any other cancer it is caused due to excessive cell division which is out of control and forming growth or tumour on the tongue.

Type of tongue cancers

There are mainly two types of tongue cancers. One is called the oral tongue cancer since it affects the part of the tongue that you stick out. The other type affects the base of your tongue, where it connects to the throat. This type is often diagnosed only after it spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

Who is at risk?

In our country the main cause of tongue cancer is tobacco abuse. Tongue cancer can affect any age group.  Rarely tongue cancer affects young children too.

What are the symptoms of tongue cancer?

The first signs of tongue cancer are the appearance of a lump or sore on the side of your tongue that doesn’t cure. The sore may be pinkish-red in colour. The sore can also bleed if pressure is applied on it. There may be pain near the affected tongue area and changes to your voice and trouble swallowing food may be other symptoms.

Whenever you get a sore right on your tongue or inside your mouth and it doesn’t go away in a couple of week’s time then it is advisable to see a doctor immediately. If the problem is at the base of the tongue then the condition may be asymptomatic in the early stages. It is usually detected when you visit your dentist on a regular visit.

What causes tongue cancer?

In our country the main cause of tongue cancer is tobacco usage. It can affect any age group after prolonged tobacco usage. More refined tobacco products can produce cancer tongue even after that period of exposure ( As short as six months). Tongue cancer without exposive  to tobacco can occur in older adults. Rarely tongue cancer can affect young Children .

Tongue caner is also caused by the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The same virus can infect the genital areas and cause cervical cancer, penile cancer and even anal cancer. It is a common sexually transmitted disease.

Other reasons that  causes tongue cancer include alcohol consumption, jagged teeth and not taking proper dental care of gums and teeth.

Instead of the above causes, tongue cancer may also be inherited and the genes play a major role in this.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a preliminary physical examination of your mouth and its parts and ask questions to you about any symptoms. It will be advised to take few X-rays or a CT scan. A sample tissue may be extracted from your mouth and sent for biopsy test to find the presence of any cancer cells and their stage.

What is the treatment?

The treatment depends on the location of the tumour and its size or growth. Surgery is the best way to remove the tumour from any part of the tongue. The surgery will involve taking out the tumour along with some healthy cells around it and some lymph nodes, so that the cancer does not come back.

When the cancer is located at the back of the tongue, usually the doctor will suggest a radiation therapy. Sometimes a combination of chemotherapy, cancer fighting drugs and radiation is applied.

Later the patient is given physical therapy to help them get back the ability to chew, move the tongue, swallow and speak better.

How to prevent tongue cancer?

Avoiding any type of tobacco is the best  way to prevent tongue cancer. Many cases of the base of the tongue cancer are caused by HPV. Some precautions that will help you avoid it include getting vaccinated for HPV, using latex during sexual contact.  Avoiding alcohol and taking good care of teeth and gums also prevent tongue cancer.

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