Tongue cancer is one of the most common types of head and neck cancer that has severe repercussions. The cancer cells are called squamous cells and are seen developing in the form of white spots on the tongue, lump or ulcer on the exterior layer of the tongue.
Tongue cancer statistics
A sub-type of oral cancer, tongue cancer affect 10,000 people in US alone while more than 37,000 people are affected by oral cancer. It has been seen that most victims of tongue cancer are people beyond 40 years of age. The cancer can lead to one death very hour and there are more than 8000 deaths in US itself. India leads percentage wise in tongue cancer, as it constitutes 37 percent of all cancers.
Tongue cancer symptoms
The symptoms of tongue cancer includes
1. Skin lesions, lumps on the outer layer of the tongue, ulcers etc that does not go away in 14 days. The spots on tongue can be pale or stained
2. The skin lesions may not pain much in the beginning but then there is an onset of pain and tingling once the cancer reaches the advance stage
3. In the early stages, there are red or white patch on the side of lips and tongue.]
4. As the cancer advances, the person may find it difficult to swallow food or drink.
5. Sore start appearing in the mouth
6. There are tongue related issues as well
7. Numbness in the tongue area as well as tingling is experienced towards the later stages of cancer of the tongue.
Causes of tongue cancer
1. Tobacco consumptions constitutes 75 percent of tongue cancer and oral cancer cases. The heat from nicotine and cigarette smoking can inflame the mucous membranes near the mouth. Tobacco alone has more than 62 cancer causing compounds or carcinogens, so direct contact with the tongue or mouth can cause tongue cancer.
2. Eating betel, paan- Areca, paan, betel are available indigenously in India, and they are one of the biggest reasons tongue cancer is common in this country.
3. Alcohol consumption- Alcohool consumption can also cause tongue cancer but the risk is more if it is consumed along with smoking.
4. Eating spicy foods- Spicy foods consumption on a continual basis can cause lesions in the opening of the mouth. A person may find it tough to open his or her mouth and at a later stage, it can lead to tongue cancer.
Tongue cancer diagnosis
Tongue cancer diagnosis begins with a thorough medical checkup and physical testing of the patient. The doctor does a biopsy in which a small piece of tissue may be removed and sent to lab analysis. The doctor finds out if there are cancer cells are present and if there are, he may recommend getting other tests done, which includes MRI scan, X-rays and CT scan.
Treatment for tongue cancer
The treatment for tongue cancer can give very good results if it is done from the early states. The treatment is mostly surgery that is followed by radiation therapy. Chemoterhapy as well as radiation therapy can be used together to form chemoradiation, in order to treat tongue base cancer. The doctor may take a call, if it is to be followed or not by surgery. In advance stages of tongue cancer treatment, there are risks wherein a person will not be able to speak properly and swallowing can be a problem. This is because by the time, the cancer will have spread to the deeper areas of the tongue
Tongue Cancer surgery treatment
Usually in the early stages, a laser surgical instrument or a cautery can remove the tumor directly from the mouth. But in case, the tumor has progressed, the surgeon may have to take it out from the lymph nodes in the neck. There is a risk of loss of function of the tongue and nearby functions, which the doctors are working on.
In the traditional form of treatment, the tongue cancer tumor removal surgery is done by cutting the jawbone and reaching to the tumor through a cut made in the neck. This kind of surgery may disfigure the face, because problems to the neighboring organs impair speech and swallowing functions. The recovery period is also considerably long.
The latest tongue surgery technique is done through the mouth, which is also known as transoral surgery, in which the tumor is taken out without causing any harm to the healthy tissues near the tongue. This improves recovery time. There is another type of modern surgery for tumor removal known as transoral robotic surgery, a minimally invasive technique to find out tongue base tumors which are removed from the mouth, without leading to any damage to the face or facial bones.
Compared to traditional tongue surgery treatment, modern surgery does not cause any harm to the functioning an shape of the tongue or surrounding organs and cause no problems with speech or swallowing. The person has to be in speech only for three or four days. The treatment is over with radiation therapy.
Radiation Therapy for Tongue Cancer
Radidation therapy employs of high powered X-rays, with radioactive chemicals and electronic beams to counterbalance cancer cells. The radiation oncologists (doctor are skilled in the treatment of cancer patients) monitor of every treatment session because they have to make note that non-cancerous tissue are not affected. There are more advanced techniques in radiation therapy called Intensity modulated radiation therapy and IGRT or image-guided radiation therapy which work to see that there is no loss of function for the tongue as well as surrounding tissues in a procedure done in just 5 minutes compared to the standard 15-20 minutes.
Tongue Cancer Prognosis
Tongue cancer treatment prognosis may yield good results provided the treatment starts in the early stages. However, prognosis of this cancer also depends on how the patient responds to the treatment and his or her general health.
For tongue cancer treatment radiation is one of the typically performed methods. If a person has donee surgery he will need to have radiation process following the surgery
Tongue cancer treatment chemotherapy comes to the picture once the cancer has moved to lymph nodes around the neck. This tongue cancer treatment includes certain drugs to neutralize cancer cell. Taking chemotherapy sessions is obligatory to kill cancer cells.
Tongue Cancer Pictures
Here is more information through pictures of tongue cancer on how the tongue is affected.