Tongue cancer is a type of cancer that can develop on either your tongue or the base of the tongue that is located in the back of your throat. When the cancer occurs on the front part of the tongue--the part that is able to wiggle around--it is considered to be part of the mouth/oral cancer group. When the cancer occurs at the base of the tongue--near your throat--then it is referred to as oropharyngeal cancer. There are several types of cancer that occur in the mouth or oropharyngeal area.
Red or White Patch
The first symptom of tongue cancer (either mouth or oropharyngeal) is a red or white patch. This could be located anywhere on the tongue, so it may not be easy to see. If necessary, use a mirror or flashlight to look into the back of your mouth.
If you do not notice the red/white spot early enough, you may instead notice a spot on your tongue that is firm with raised edges. This is the former red or white spot, only it has begun to develop. As time progresses, this patch will continue to grow and become harder. The centre of the spot is soft and bleeds easily. If you notice a growth like this, see a doctor immediately.
Additional symptoms include pain while chewing and/or swallowing, numbness in the mouth, unexplained bleeding, a change in your voice, bad breath, rigid tongue and even ear pain. If you experience these symptoms in addition to the red/white spot (or firm, raised spot), see a doctor immediately.
Tongue cancer should be taken very seriously because it can spread quickly to your gums, throat and jaws. In most cases, a portion of the tongue must be removed, so it is best to visit a doctor as soon as possible. Some people lose some (or all) of their lower jaw in cases where tongue cancer isn't treated soon enough.
Once your doctor has verified that you have tongue cancer, there are a number of treatment options. The earlier your cancer is diagnosed, the easier it will be to control and cure it. Depending on the size of your tongue cancer and how much it has spread, treatment may include surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy.
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