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What Are the Different Tongue Cancer Signs?

Chewing tobacco, which can cause tongue cancer.
Tongue cancer prognosis is greatly improved if the disease is found early.
A tongue.
As oral cancers can grow quickly, the prognosis can be bad for some patients.
Chronic bad breath may be a sign of tongue cancer.
The lymph nodes in the neck may become inflamed in people with tongue cancer.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2015
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Tongue cancer signs can include pain, swelling, and discoloration of the tongue. They are sometimes difficult to identify when they involve the base of the tongue — the portion in the back of the mouth — because people do not often inspect this part of the mouth closely. Dentists are most commonly responsible for identifying tongue cancer signs, as they are familiar with the mouths of their patients and they use special tools to look deep into the mouth. Oral cancers can grow quickly and are often invasive, and the prognosis can be bad for the patient.

People with tongue cancer may notice discolored patches on the tongue, including darker or lighter areas, that do not go away. The tongue can also feel tender and sore; people may feel like something is lodged in the tongue and cannot be removed. Oral bleeding is common and the area around the cancer may develop numbness or tingling. In addition, persistent bad breath can be a warning sign of tongue cancer.

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Other tongue cancer signs involve surrounding areas of the body. The lymph nodes in the neck may become swollen. and discolorations and puffiness can start appearing along the gums as well. Patients may have trouble swallowing and can develop slurred speech as the swollen tongue makes it harder to enunciate. The teeth and jaw can be displaced, leading to a change in the way the patient bites down, and weight loss may occur as a result of low-level loss of appetite.

Tongue cancer signs are often spotted early on the front of the tongue because people notice tender areas or discolorations that do not go away. In these cases, they may seek treatment from a doctor after home remedies like canker sore treatments do not appear to work. A doctor can take a scraping of the lesion for biopsy to see what is happening and may make treatment recommendations like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Surgery can be invasive, as it may be necessary to remove parts of the jaw if the cancer is locally aggressive, but the alternative would be allowing the cancer to keep growing.

People who notice tongue cancer signs should get them evaluated. If the problem is benign or is another issue, like a yeast infection, it may be very treatable and a doctor will not mind consulting with the patient on the matter. If it is in fact tongue cancer, rapid treatment can make a significant difference in the prognosis. Removing the cancerous growth before it has time to spread to other areas of the body may improve the prognosis for the patient significantly.

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Soulfox
Post 2

@Markerrag -- I don't know. If I were a tobacco chewer, I would be worried about discolored spots on my tongue and would likely at least go and get a checkup at my local doctor. I would probably do everything I could to detect that stuff early on because it can be disfiguring, deadly and all kinds of things.

Congratulations on quitting. I understand that can be tough, but could add some years to your life.

Markerrag
Post 1

As a former smokeless tobacco user, I can tell you that there is probably no need to panic if you see discolored sections on your tongue. I remember stewing over some of those once upon a time, but they went away after a time.

I am not saying that such a site shouldn't send up some red flags. I am saying they are somewhat normal and you should wait a bit instead of flying into a panic.

By the way, if you want to really reduce your chances of tongue cancer, give up dipping. That is tough to do, but well worth the effort.

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