What is it?

Tongue cancer begins in the tongue cells. It can occur either in the part of the tongue that is seen when the mouth is open, called "oral tongue cancer" or in the throat, called "hypopharyngeal tongue cancer". The oral tongue cancer is usually diagnosed in an earlier stage, as the sore is easier to see and remove. Risk factors for tongue cancer include smoking and using tobacco products, heavy alcohol consumption- and the combination of both increases the risk even more. Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection is also a risk factor, especially for the hypopharyngeal tongue cancer.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Tongue Cancer

Signs & symptoms

Common symptoms are:
Recurrent bleeding from the same location on the tongue
Changes in speech
pain or difficulty swallowing
A change in the texture of the tongue
Appearance of a persistent bump or lump that can be felt on the tongue
A change in the color of the tongue
A wound on the tongue that is not healed


For diagnosis, the physician will ask the patient about his or her medical history, look for risk factors, including an HPV test, and perform a physical examination on the patient. If tongue cancer is suspected, an incisional biopsy may be performed. In this type of biopsy, the doctor will remove a small piece of the suspected tissue. This is usually done under local anesthesia in the doctor’s office. Cells will sent to pathology assessment. If the biopsy confirms tongue cancer, a CT, PET-CT or MRI may be done to seek for progression of the disease.


Treatment depends on the tumor size, the stage of the disease and the extent of its progression. If mouth cancer is detected early, it is likely that a surgery to remove the tumor will be a sufficient treatment. Bigger tumors will require a partial or total glossectomy, with possible reconstruction surgery. The aim in these surgeries is to remove the affected area while harming as little healthy tissue as possible. A combination of surgery with radiation and or chemotherapy will be suggested for bigger tumors or metastases.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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