Cancer is an abnormal division of cells in the tissues. Cancer can affect any part of the human body. Out of the several types of cancer, oral cancer ranks 15th of the most common cancers and disease in the world. In 2018, around 49,750 Americans were diagnosed with oral cancer. Men are twice as likely to be affected by oral cancer as compared to women. Many parts of the mouth like tongue, lip, inner cheek, and throat can be affected by cancer. Tobacco and alcohol are among the top two reasons or risk factors that result in oral cancer. Research shows that around 90% of oral cancer cases are due to tobacco and alcohol, while only 10% is due to genetic aberration.
Tongue cancer occurs mostly in the thin cells that line our tongue; these cells are known as squamous cells. Any form of tobacco consumption such as chewing, smoking pipes or cigarettes, and cigars and excessive use of alcohol can cause tongue cancer. Another significant risk factor of tongue cancer is contracting the HPV virus during sexual activities.
Most of the early symptoms of tongue cancer are painless and not very obvious. However, the following symptoms could be experienced. If you notice any of these, it would be highly imperative to get checked as early as possible.
- A red and white patch forms on the surface of the tongue.
- It is followed by a lump or ulcer on the tongue that does not disappear easily.
- A sore throat that does not respond to any treatment is also one of the prominent tongue cancer symptoms.
- Another symptom of tongue cancer is when the sufferer experiences pain while swallowing food or saliva.
- Unexplained bleeding in the absence of ulcers or accidental biting of the tongue is also a symptom of tongue cancer.
- Inflamed lymph nodes in the neck are also a prominent symptom so is numbness in the tongue.
In older patients with dentures, swelling of the jaw can also indicate a cancerous tongue. As the cancer advances, severe and persistent ear pain can be felt.
The initial stage of tongue cancer is difficult to diagnose. A dentist or doctor may check for early symptoms as well. A screening through PET, CT, or MRI scans could be prescribed to rule out the early symptoms of cancer and to help detect it. Early detection will facilitate proper and timely treatment. A combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and drug therapy is done based on the stage of tongue cancer. Depending on the severity of the cancer, the sufferer may have to undergo speech therapy or plastic surgery.