Tongue cancer 


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

An overview

A persistent lump of red or white patch on the tongue that does not go away is considered to be a tongue cancer.  They are broadly called oral cancers and are differentiated by their location in the mouth and on the tongue.  Tongue cancer is broadly divided into two types.  It is called squamous cell cancer of the oral tongue if the cancer is found on the forward portion of the tongue.  Similarly, it is called squamous cell cancer at the base of the tongue when it is located towards the rear third of the tongue.  Both these tongue cancers have distinct differences and their origins too vary.  Since the origin is different, the treatment too varies accordingly.  This type of cancer is considered to be rare and accounts for only 3% of all cancers.

Causes of tongue cancer

Tongue cancer has no particular cause.  There are numerous factors that are known to increase the risk.  One of the biggest causes is due to HPV or human papillomavirus.  This type of cancer mainly affects the base of the tongue.  Other risk factors include smoking, chewing tobacco, alcohol abuse, chewing betel leaf, family history of cancer, poor oral hygiene, as well as an unhealthy diet.  It has been found that tongue cancers are more common in men over 50 years of age.

Unexpected cancer causes

Place where you live

It is important to have a pollution free environment at the place where you live.  A study in 2017 has found that an environment where there is poor air quality has reported an increased number of cancer patients.  Due to the high technology dependent countries, there is little space for nature.  These places are crowded with factories and highways and there is no room for the air to be clean.  There is constant emission of carbon in the air, making it difficult to even breathe.  Prostate and breast cancer are highly associated with poor air quality.

Air fresheners and scented candles

This should come as a shocker to know that air fresheners and scented candles can cause cancer.  Yes, this is true and the culprit is limonene.  Limonene is the chemical used to produce citrus smell in the freshener and this is considered to be the biggest culprit.  Studies have indicated that houses using these products are known to be associated with people suffering from cancer.  Studies have indicated that limonene, when released into the air, gets converted to formaldehyde with the help of ozone and can cause nasopharyngeal cancer and myeloid leukemia.

Alcohol abuse

Alcohol consumption is considered to be one of the biggest risk factors for cancer.  Studies have claimed that women who drink alcohol have a higher risk of having breast cancer as compared to other women who do not consume alcohol.  This is mainly because the ethanol present in alcohol is converted to acetaldehyde by our body.  Acetaldehyde is known to damage DNA and proteins in the body and also trigger the oxidation process.  This leads to low nutrition absorption and an increase in estrogen levels.

Food packaging

It is a well-known fact that food can impact our health in a big way, but you would be surprised to hear that not only food but also the packaging used can be harmful.  It is common to use wrappers and boxes to pack food, but little do we know that these packaging items contain perfluorinated chemicals.  When food is packed in these wrappers and boxes, the perfluorinated chemicals get mixed with the food and can cause serious complications including cancer and affect the immune system, reproductive system, etc.

Sunscreens

Avoiding harmful rays from the sun is recommended, but little did you know that using the wrong creams to prevent sun rays can actually cause cancer.  Oxybenzone is the ingredient that is used in numerous sunscreen products.  This is known to cause cancer growth and DNA damage.  Overusing these products can lead to the production of free radicals leading to cancer.

Working the night shift

Due to the fast-paced life, there are certain individuals who work in the night.  It has been estimated that around 15% of Americans are known to work at night.  It has been found that this can affect the circadian rhythm which controls when we go to sleep and when we wake up.  It has been found that these enzymes are also responsible for controlling tumor growth.  Since these enzymes are abnormally functioning, there is little control over the tumor growth and may lead to cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

The initial signs and symptoms of tongue cancer may appear in the form of a red sore that does not heal.  In some cases, a white patch may appear on the tongue.  The sore may start bleeding if accidentally bitten.  This is considered to be a clear indication of a squamous cell cancer and particularly if it occurs after 50 years of age.  In its developmental stages, you may even experience a sore throat.  Generally, the development phase is asymptomatic and it is hardly detectable until the tongue and surrounding tissue become tender and painful.  Following this, you may experience a change in voice, swallowing difficulties, as well as bloating in the stomach.  By the time you make up your mind and consult a healthcare professional, the squamous cell cancer would have metastasized and spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.  Some of the primary symptoms of tongue cancer include:

  • Stiffness in the tongue and jaw.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Unresolved throat pain.
  • Appearance of a patch which may be red or white.
  • Formation of an ulcer on the tongue that is persistent.
  • Bleeding from the throat.

What is the process of cancer staging?

Staging cancer is a process that determines how much cancer is present and to what level has it spread in the body.  The staging is classified with grades and represented with letters and numbers.  The letters used to classify the cancer are T, N, and M.  Here, T stands for tumor, N indicates if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in the neck and M refers to metastases which indicate if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.

Next comes the grading.  The grading is between 0 and 4.  Here, 0 indicates nonexistence whereas 1 indicates small and 4 indicates the largest grade.  For example, if the staging reads T1N0M0.  This means the tumor is small in size and it has not affected the lymph nodes in the neck and has not spread to any other parts of the body.

Similarly, T4N4M4 indicates that the tumor is large and has affected many lymph nodes as well.  The grades also can be classified as low, moderate, and high representing how fast the cancer is growing and how fast it is spreading.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis of tongue cancer involves a standard protocol.  When a person consults the doctor regarding the signs and symptoms, a physical exam is conducted.  Once the physical exam indicates any abnormality, a thorough personal and medical history is analyzed.  It is important to know if the person is involved in smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking alcohol, etc.  It is also important to know if the person was diagnosed with the HPV virus in the past.

Once these risk factors are analyzed, your doctor will determine the next level of treatment, which involves testing.  If the physical examination indicates abnormalities such as a red or white spot on the tongue or swollen lymph nodes in the neck, a biopsy would be ordered.  An incisional biopsy is the common type of biopsy and this would require incising a piece of tissue and sending it for analysis.

A more modernized form of biopsy is the brush biopsy where a small brush is rolled over the affected site.  This may cause minor bleeding which helps in collecting cells for testing.  If the results indicate a cancerous growth, your doctor would order a CT scan or MRI to determine the size and location of the cancerous growth.  This can also determine how far cancer has spread.

Treatment for tongue cancer

Treatment for tongue cancer mainly depends on the severity.  In fact treatment for any type of cancer depends on how early it is diagnosed and how much has it affected other parts of the body.

It has been estimated that tongue cancer has a five year survival rate of around 63% if it is diagnosed early and this increases to 75% if the lymph nodes in the neck are not involved, but can drastically decrease to 36% if the lymph nodes are involved and the disease has spread to other parts of the body.

Chemotherapy followed by radiation therapy is used to treat the condition if it is diagnosed in early stages.  If the patient is not responding to these treatments, surgery may be considered to remove the affected part.  Some of the possible surgeries include laryngectomy, neck dissection, and glossectomy.

Laryngectomy

Laryngectomy consists of two types namely partial and complete.  Complete laryngectomy is a surgical procedure where the larynx is removed and separated from the mouth, nose, and esophagus.  Similarly, during partial laryngectomy, only a portion of the larynx is removed.

Neck dissection

This is a surgical procedure used to remove squamous cell carcinoma that has affected the lymph nodes in the neck.  This procedure is undertaken to remove the lymph nodes from one side of the neck which have been metastasized.

Glossectomy

This is a surgical procedure where the tongue is surgically removed.  This generally involves removing part of the tongue that is affected.  This surgery is generally followed by reconstruction surgery.  During the reconstruction procedure, the tongue will be reconstructed with the help of tissue removed from another part of the body.  Speech therapy would be required following this surgery, as it would be difficult to speak and even swallow foods appropriately.

Prevention

There is no clear cut method to prevent tongue cancer, but you can definitely avoid the risk factors that can lead to tongue cancer by changing your lifestyle.  Some of the common lifestyle changes required to avoid tongue cancer include avoiding smoking, quit chewing tobacco or betel leaf, avoiding alcohol abuse, receive HPV vaccine, eat a healthy diet, and practicing safe sex and avoiding oral sex.

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Take an HPV vaccine.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Practice safe sex.
Don'ts
  • Chew tobacco and betel.
  • Drink alcohol.
  • Maintain unhealthy oral hygiene.

 

 

 

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Cayenne: The remarkable benefits of these red hot chili peppers These may make you rush for a glass of water, but cayenne pepper is actually a healthy additive…
amylase test
Amylase Test Amylase test is done by checking the level of this protein in the blood sample and also in…
Rheumatoid Arthritis xray
Arthritis Profile Arthritis profile is a panel of primarily blood tests used to detect the presence of arthritis or check…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
maltodextrin sugar
Maltodextrin: What are the hidden health benefits of this food additive? Maltodextrin is one of the few food additives that has been relatively deemed safe. Many experts now have…
DHEA wrinkles
DHEA: Now get unbelievable age defiance with this wonder hormone! DHEA is known popularly as the age-defying hormone. This supplement is widely used to slow down aging and…
Bronchoscopy procedure
Bronchoscopy Bronchoscopy is a procedure where in a scope is inserted into the lung pathway to observe any growth…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does our poop turn…
colposcopy
Colposcopy Colposcopy is a simple, quick and non- invasive diagnostic tool to look closely inside the vulva, vagina, and…
free testosterone test
Free testosterone Free Testosterone Test measures and monitors the level of the free testosterone in the blood. Less than 4%…
Propolis: Yet another amazing gift by the bees to the humans Bee propolis is yet another generous gift by the bees bestowed on the human race. They utilize substances…
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
liver biopsy procedure
Liver Biopsy Liver biopsy or hepatic biopsy is a diagnostic tool that collects a sample of live tissue from the…
GERD heartburn
Heartburn: What are the exact symptoms and the best home remedies? There are easy home remedies for heartburn, which not only acts as a first aid when you experience…
How seitan proved to be a blessing in disguise for vegans worldwide Can only meat-eaters enjoy delicious juicy steaks and burgers? With seitan, the best meat substitute available today,even vegans…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
liver detox facts
7 liver detox facts and why ignoring these could kill you! Are you taking care of this organ that handles over 500 different vital functions in your body? Your…
Astaxanthin: Why experts believe it could be 550x more potent than vitamin E! What is astaxanthin and why is this new supplement on the block touted as the most powerful antioxidant…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes with a plethora…
Hydroquinone: Is it the best topical treatment for hyperpigmentation? Darkening of the skin due to high melanin levels is called hyperpigmentation.  Hydroquinone interferes with melanin production thus treating…
Salt dangers
Sodium chloride: The wonders and dangers of the simple table salt Sodium chloride is a salt containing sodium and chlorine ions at a 1:1 ratio. It is edible and…
kidney stones
Kidney stones Kidney stones are solid substances made up of crystals. They can be of various sizes. Treatment depend on…
free psa test
Free PSA Test The free PSA test is used to detect the level or percentage of free PSA in the body…
Experts reveal the safest ways to perform an enema at home The idea of pushing some up your rectal area might make you queasy but an enema could actually…
Urologist: When should you visit one and why? A urologist can treat not only genitourinary problems of both men and women but also can treat various…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
6 arguments in favour of glucosamine and where can you find it Studies have shown that glucosamine works by preventing the breakdown of cartilage of the joints. This is usually…
Psyllium Husk: More than just an effective natural laxative Psyllium husk, or isabgol, is a popular natural laxative . But did you in addition to regulating bowels,…
Miracle extract from the root of maca: 10 ways it can help you! Maca root has been used for years in herbal medicine. Today scientific research is unearthing fresh evidence in…
lipase test
Lipase Test A lipase test is a blood test performed to quantitatively measure the level of the enzyme lipase in…
Diabetes blood test
Diabetic Profile The diabetic profile is a set of tests used for testing and monitoring the various kinds of Diabetes…
Lauric Acid: 8 health benefits you can derive from coconuts Appropriate use of saturated fats containing lauric acid can provide you numerous health benefits. This is the main…
kshar sutra
Kshar sutra treatment for piles, fissures and fistula Read to know the benefits and side effects of kshar sutra to treat anal piles, fissures, and fistula…
superfoods quinoa probiotics
10 fantastic Superfoods you need to include in your diet from today! What exactly are superfoods and how do they battle diseases? From losing weight to looking ravishing- these superfoods…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
creatinine
Creatinine Test The level of creatinine in the blood is a significant indicator of the health of your kidneys. This…
Piaget stages: Do they accurately describe the way the human brain develops?  A common assumption was that children are less competent thinkers as compared to adults, but this was refuted…
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…

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