5 Important Symptoms of Tongue Cancer - ACIBADEM
5 Important Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

5 Important Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

Do not underestimate canker sores!


If there is an ulcerous lesion with irregular edges on your tongue and it has not retrogressed in weeks or even months or it continues to grow, you must consult an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist immediately. The canker sores which you dismiss as “unimportant” can be indicative of an insidious tumor! Professor Melih Güven Güvenç, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Acıbadem University Atakent Hospital, says, “The most important risk factor in tongue cancer is the consumption of tobacco products and alcohol. Those who chew tobacco or smoke pipes are under as much as risk as those who smoke cigarettes. HPV can also cause tongue cancer”. Emphasizing that lesions on the tongue which refuse to heal must not be neglected and that failing to suspect tongue cancer can cause delays in diagnosis, Professor Melih Güven Güvenç says, “The definitive diagnosis of tongue cancer is made through biopsy on the lesion, which involves removal of a sample and a pathological analysis of the sample. Magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography and PET can be used in the determination of the prevalence of cancer in the area”. Professor Melih Güven Güvenç has shared with us the 5 most critical symptoms of tongue cancer and provides us with important warnings and recommendations.

Canker sores on the tongue

The canker sores on the tongue constitute the most important symptom of tongue cancer. While tongue cancer usually develops in the free sides of the tongue, it is still possible for the disease to occur in other parts. Simple canker sores generally retrogress and heal within days and individuals should watch out for canker sores that remain unhealed for long times. If there is an ulcerous lesion with irregular edges on your tongue and it has not retrogressed in weeks or even months or it continues to grow, make sure to consult an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist immediately. It is also possible for a tumor to progress under the mucosa and cause abnormal stiffness in the tongue. Therefore, be sure to watch out for any stiffness in your tongue as well.

Swelling in the neck

When a tumor spreads to the lymph nodes, it can cause swelling. Watch out for a swollen area of the neck which continuously grow over a course of weeks and months without receding and which become harder and less movable as they become attached to the surrounding tissue on the inside; these can be indicative of cancer.

Changes in speech

Tongue cancer can impair movement of the tongue. Inability to move the tongue properly can, in turn, alter the speech of a patient.

Pain and bleeding in the tongue

Tongue cancer can cause tongue pain and in more advanced cases, bleeding from the lesion on the tongue. Severe pain can even affect the ears in cases of advanced tumors.

Bad breath

Professor Melih Güven Güvenç, an ear, nose and throat specialist, says, “As the tumor progresses the dead tissue in the mouth which is referred to as “necrotic tissue” disrupts oral hygiene and can lead to bad breath”.

Early diagnosis is essential!

Professor Melih Güven Güvenç, an ENT specialist, has shared with us the following information on treatment: “Similar to all cancers, early diagnosis is very important in tongue cancer cases. Depending on the prevalence of cancer, the tumor can be treated with surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Early-stage tumors can be removed surgically with healthy margins. The remaining tongue tissue is generally sufficient for functionality. Since tongue cancer can quickly spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, these lymph nodes should also be included in the treatment plan. For cases where the tumor is at an advanced stage and the remaining tongue tissue after removal of the tumor is too little, the remaining tissue can be supported via transfer of the individual’s own muscle and skin tissue from any part of the body to the neck through microsurgery. In cases where the tumor has progressed too far, however, the whole tongue is removed together with the base of the mouth, and muscle and tissue are transferred to form a new mouth base. If the tumor has grown into the jaw, the involved part of the jaw can also be removed and the treatment plan can be designed to include a bone transfer in the area. The modern diagnosis and treatment of tongue cancer require teamwork in which specialists from various disciplines such as otorhinolaryngology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology, radiology, pathology, nuclear medicine, speech and swallowing therapy, dietetics and nursing operate in harmony.”