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Tongue Cancer Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Diverse team of cancer doctorsTongue cancer is a general term that refers to cancers affecting both the visible portion of the tongue as well as the portion that extends down into the throat (referred to as oral and hypopharyngeal tongue cancers, respectively). Although the medical community doesn’t yet understand the precise trigger for tongue cancer, there have been several risk factors linked to an elevated chance of developing the disease. For example, tongue cancer affects men far more often than women, and it tends to occur in people who are 60 or older. Other factors that can elevate the risk of these cancers include:

  • Use of tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and others
  • Heavy consumption of alcohol, especially when used with tobacco
  • Chewing betel nut, a mildly addictive stimulant chewed with or without tobacco
  • A poor diet lacking in essential nutrients
  • Lack of proper dental hygiene and routine dental checkups
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection

Tongue cancer can produce a variety of symptoms, many of which can be easily overlooked, especially in the cases of early-stage cancer. A red or white patch or an ulcer on the tongue that won’t go away, a persistent sore throat, pain when swallowing, and unexplained bleeding from the tongue can all be signs of cancer. Of course, these symptoms can all result from other conditions as well, so physicians use several techniques – such as biopsies and imaging tests – to diagnose. If a tongue cancer diagnosis is confirmed, the cancer can be treated using surgery to remove the affected tissue, radiation therapy to deliver doses of cancer-killing radiation to the tumor, and chemotherapy to destroy quickly multiplying cells.

Tampa General Hospital's experienced staff of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and surgeons treats various types of tongue cancer. This team works together to develop comprehensive plans to provide our patients with the services that best fit their needs.

For more information about the tongue cancer treatment options available through Tampa General Hospital, or to locate a specialist, use our PhysicianFinder tool or call 813-844-7585.