Tongue cancer is a part of oral cancer and is considered one of the major head and neck cancers, which builds up in the front two third of the tongue. It normally develops in the squamous cells known as squamous cell carcinoma (SCCA), the thin, flat cells covering the surface of the tongue.
Causes and symptoms
The exact reason behind this type of cancer is still unknown, but there are many risk factors that have been recognized, which are smoking tobacco and excessive consumption of alcohol. A person affected with HPV virus through sexual contact can also develop this defect. Symptoms include
- A white or red patch on the tongue
- Sore throat
- Spot ulcer or lump on the tongue
- Trouble swallowing
- Numbness in mouth
- Bleeding in tongues
- Pain in the ear
These symptoms can also be the cause of any other minor medical condition, but it is advised to see the doctor for confirmation.
Diagnosis can be done after the doctor thoroughly witnessing your symptoms. Certain imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan or PET scan can be conducted to find out the tumor. Blood test or a biopsy often helps find the condition. It is necessary to diagnose the cancer as early as possible as if the tumor is spread to other parts such as the throat or neck, it would become very difficult to cure it.
The treatment mainly depends on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread to other locations or not such as the lymph nodes. The doctor will explain you the condition and then decide which treatment to go for. The options are as follows:
- Surgery: The surgical procedure is performed by an oncologist surgeon involves the removal of complete tumor cells from the tongue. The procedure uses techniques such as minimally invasive surgery whenever possible.
- Radiation therapy: Performed by a radiation oncologist, radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy beams aimed accurately to the tumor to kill the cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy: It uses anti-cancer drugs to destroy the cancer cells all over the body. It is a better option if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The kind of drugs used depends upon the stage of the cancer. It is often used with radiation therapy as well.
- Targeted drug therapy: This method includes drugs that targeted to cancerous cells and reduce their growth to the molecular level.
Every treatment includes some side effects and so does the treatment of tongue cancer. Some side effects are temporary while others can be permanent. Surgical procedures may cause problems such as speech difficulty and changes in drinking and eating. Other complications of treatment are:
- Change or loss of voice
- Trouble speaking
- Dry mouth
- Sore throat
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Trouble swallowing
After treatment involves regular check ups to ensure the cancer does not come back or stopping the occurrence of new cancer. People with such types of cancer often have chances to develop a new cancer in other areas. Examination of your body will be done in these check ups that includes blood tests, x-rays, CT scan, Ultrasound scans and dental checks.
Radiation therapy can cause chronic tiredness; hence checking of thyroid hormone level will also be done.
It is recommended to see a speech therapist if you are having trouble speaking or swallowing.
Smoking tobacco is considered as the main cause of all kinds of mouth cancer, hence you will require to quit smoking and drinking alcohol for good.