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Tongue Cancer: Overview, Causes, and Symptoms

Last updated on : 16 May, 2024

Read time : 6 min

What about Tongue Cancer?

Oral (mouth) cancers can take many different forms. It happens when cells divide uncontrollably and form a tumour, just as in other cancers.

They are divided into two categories. Oral cancer is a type of cancer that affects the part of the mouth that can protrude. The other happens near the base of your tongue, where it connects to your neck. Oropharyngeal carcinoma is a kind of cancer that is typically found after it has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck.

Cancer under the tongue is less common than many other types of cancer. Those that contract it are mostly in their forties and sixties. In children, it is unusual.

Tongue cancer is cancer that starts in the cells of the tongue and progresses to the formation of lesions or tumours. A kind of mouth cancer that develops on the front of the tongue is known as oral tongue cancer. It could also happen near the bottom of your mouth, where your tongue meets with the bottom of your mouth. Oropharyngeal cancer is the medical term for this.

The most frequent type of cancer under the tongue is squamous cell carcinoma. This type of cancer shows up in the following ways:

  • on the surface of the skin’s epidermis
  • mouth, nose, larynx, thyroid, and throat linings
  • in the intestines and lungs’ linings

All of these areas of the body are covered in squamous cells.

Tongue cancer stages:

Most cancers are classified into phases based on the amount of cancer present and whether it has spread to other parts of the body, or metastasized.

The classification system employs letters and numbers. The letter T stands for a tumour, and the letter N stands for lymph nodes in the neck. On a scale of 1–4 or 0–3, these letters are graded 1–4 or 0–3.

People with T1 tumours have the smallest grade, while those with T4 tumours have the largest.

The N0 status implies that oral cancer has not progressed to any lymph nodes in the neck. Cancer under the tongue that has spread to a considerable number of lymph nodes is classified as an N3.

The following procedures can also be used to grade tongue cancer:

  • mediocre quality
  • moderate
  • high calibre

This rating indicates how quickly the cancer is spreading and the likelihood of it spreading to other parts of the body.

Tongue cancer symptoms

One of the early signs of mouth cancer is a lump or soreness on the side of your tongue that doesn’t go away. It could be a pinkish-red hue. The sore may bleed if you touch or bite it.

You should also think about:

  • An ache in or near your tongue is bothering you.
  • Hoarseness or other changes in your voice
  • Having trouble swallowing

If you develop a sore on your tongue or in your mouth that does not go away after a few weeks, see your doctor.

If the condition is in the base of your tongue, you may not notice any symptoms. Your dentist may find signs of cancer under the tongue during a standard visit, or your doctor may see anything during a basic examination.

In the early stages of oral cancer, particularly carcinoma near the base of the tongue, you may not detect any symptoms. A sore on the tongue that doesn’t heal and bleeds abundantly is the most prevalent early indication of tongue cancer. You may also have pain in your tongue or mouth.

Other signs and symptoms of tongue cancer include:

  • a persistent red or white area on your tongue a tongue ulcer that causes pain when swallowing
  • numbness in the mouth
  • a persistent aching throat
  • bleeding from the tip of your tongue for no apparent reason
  • a persistent bump on your tongue.

Tongue cancer causes

The human papillomavirus can develop cancer at the base of the tongue (HPV). HPV can cause genital cancers such as cervical cancer, penile cancer, and anal cancer. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection on the planet. The human papillomavirus (HPV) appears in a variety of types. HPVs with a high risk of causing cancer are known as high-risk HPVs.

There is no known aetiology for cancer under the tongue. Certain behaviours and conditions, on the other hand, can increase your risk, such as:

  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • a lot of consuming
  • Human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease (HPV)
  • In South and Southeast Asia, chewing betel is a popular activity.
  • a family history of tongue cancer or other oral cancers
  • a personal history of certain types of cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma and other types of squamous cell carcinomas
  • a poor diet 
  • Sharp teeth or ill-fitting dentures can cause constant irritation, increasing your risk of developing

The group most at risk of oral cancer is older men. Oral cancer is the most frequent malignancy among people over the age of 50.

Smokers who also consume a lot of alcohol are 15 times more likely to acquire mouth cancer than non-smokers.

The following are some other risk factors:

  • GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Asbestos, sulfuric acid, and formaldehyde are some of the pollutants that people get the effect
  • Poor dental hygiene or other mouth-related issues, such as sharp teeth that cause sensitivity or ill-fitting dentures.


You can reduce your risk of developing tongue cancer by avoiding acts that contribute to the disease and taking care of your mouth. To reduce your risk, do the following steps:

  • Tobacco chewing and smoking are equally dangerous to your health.
  • don’t drink or only drink occasionally
  • Take caution not to eat the betel nut.
  • obtain a complete HPV vaccination course
  • Use only safe sex, especially oral sex.
  • Consume a wide range of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Once every six months, if possible, see a dentist.

How is tongue cancer diagnosed?

Before diagnosing tongue cancer, your doctor will take a medical history. They’ll ask whether you’ve had any cancer in your family or personal history if you smoke or drink, and how much, and if you’ve ever tested positive for the HPV virus. Then undertake a physical examination of your mouth to look for signs of cancer, such as ulcers that haven’t healed. They’ll also look for swelling in nearby lymph nodes.

If your doctor suspects cancer under the tongue, he or she will take a biopsy of the suspected malignant area. An incisional biopsy is the most common type of biopsy. Your doctor will remove a little portion of possible cancer in this so that you may get on with your life.

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Our healthcare experts have carefully reviewed and compiled the information presented here to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness. It is important to note that this information serves as a general overview of the topic and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, or cure any health problem. This page does not establish a doctor-patient relationship, nor does it replace the advice or consultation of a registered medical practitioner. We recommend seeking guidance from your registered medical practitioner for any questions or concerns regarding your medical condition.


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