This article helps you to understand tongue cancer and to recognize tongue cancer symptoms. Tongue and lip cancer are the most common types of oral cancer. There are other types of cancers of the tongue, but they are statistically uncommon. The strongest risk factors for this disease are believed to be smoking and alcohol abuse.
The tongue is a fleshy, movable muscular organ which is the principal organ of taste. It helps us chew, swallow food, and speak. It is separated into two anatomical areas, the oral tongue and the base of the tongue. The oral tongue is the part you can “stick out.” It extends backwards to a V-shaped group of lumps on the back of the tongue which are actually specialized taste buds. Behind these is the base of the tongue which is the posterior one third of the tongue.
The most common type of tongue cancer is squamous cell carcinoma that starts in the surface layer of the tongue. Tongue cancer symptoms include sores or lumps on the tongue, altered taste, and difficulty swallowing or talking. Cancer that has spread can cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and other symptoms.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Oral and Base of Tongue
Squamous cell carcinoma of the oral tongue is usually located on the side, or the lateral border, which is usually somewhat ulcerated and is grayish pink to red in color. It is the area that will often bleed easily if bitten or touched. The base of the tongue or posterior one third of the tongue can also grow several types of cancers. The diagnosis of this type often comes a bit later, because in the early stages, symptoms may not be seen. If there are symptoms, there are usually only a few. A great number of patients with this disease will already have neck metastasis, as the cancer spreads through the lymph nodes of the neck. The base of tongue cancer may be painful, create a sense of fullness, change the sound of the voice, and perhaps even cause some difficulty in swallowing.
Common symptoms of tongue cancer include:
Altered sense of taste.
Bleeding in the mouth.
Cracking in an area of the tongue.
Difficulty eating or swallowing.
Lump on the tongue.
Non-healing sore on the tongue, which may be white, pale, red, dark, or otherwise discolored.
Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
Thickening of an area of the tongue.
Unexplained weight loss.
Some of these symptoms may also manifest in other health problems. Seeking prompt medical care is the key to prevent complications. Serious tongue cancer symptoms like heavy bleeding and labored breathing, require prompt medical care immediately.