What are the Different Symptoms of Tongue Cancer?

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  • Written By: V. Saxena
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2019
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The most common symptoms of tongue cancer include red or white spots on the tongue, pain while chewing or swallowing food, bleeding in the mouth, and bad breath with an unusual smell. Tongue cancer is a term used to describe the rapid growth of cancerous cells in a person’s tongue. It is most commonly caused by squamous cell carcinoma, in which the squamous cells of the tongue become cancerous and subsequently begin to manifest themselves as a tumor.

One of the earliest symptoms of tongue cancer are lesions that suddenly appear and don’t go away, even after two weeks. These lesions appear as masses or lumps on either the top or the side of the tongue. If the lesions last longer than two weeks, a doctor should be seen, who in turn will extract a small piece of the tongue and send it to the lab for testing.

Another sign of tongue cancer is a mouth sore. Oftentimes, such sores are the direct result of burning one’s mouth from eating food that’s too hot or too acidic. If the condition persists for longer than a week, the individual in question should seek guidance from his or her physician.


Additional symptoms of tongue cancer include numbness in the mouth, the inability to speak correctly, pain while chewing, and bleeding. These symptoms of tongue cancer may also be a sign of another condition, which is why individuals suffering from them should immediately seek the counsel of a medical doctor. Like other cancers, tongue cancer is best dealt with if diagnosed and treated early. Otherwise, it can quickly spread to other parts of the oral cavity through blood and lymph nodes.

The symptoms of tongue cancer can appear in anyone, but there are a few select groups who are at greater risk. Men over the age of forty are at the highest risk of developing tongue cancer. People who have poor oral hygiene, people who smoke, and people with a history of oral ulcers are also at an increased risk. Scientists have discovered a link between throat cancer and hereditary conditions, which means people with a family history of cancer are also at risk.

Tongue cancer is treatable, but surviving tongue cancer means taking immediate action. The worst thing someone can do is avoid seeing one’s doctor due to the fear that the symptoms are related to something else. If symptoms are present, it is better to receive a prompt diagnosis so that treatment can begin.


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Post 3

My dad had tongue cancer. Right before his diagnosis, he complained about his tongue being sore. He also said he had difficulty eating and felt like his tongue had become thicker. These were the early signs he had and because we took them seriously, he had an early diagnosis. Doctors recommend worrying about such symptoms when they last longer than two weeks. In our case, we saw a doctor after the first week.

Later, he developed some other symptoms too, like hoarse voice, difficulty swallowing and weight loss because he didn't eat much. So people can have different kinds of symptoms depending on the type of cancer and it's stage. But people will know that something is not right with them and seeing a doctor quickly is very important.

Post 2

@fify-- I'm not a doctor and you should see your doctor about these issues. But as far as I know, oral cancer causes red or white patches. I don't think cancer causes black tongue. Black tongue (or black hairy tongue as it's sometimes called) is often harmless. It can be due to medications, vitamin deficiencies or allergies to foods.

Canker sores are thought to be harmless as well. Doctors don't know what causes them but eating acidic or spicy foods can cause them. Vitamin deficiencies can cause them too.

White or red patches, numbness, bleeding in your mouth, general fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss are the most common symptoms of oral and tongue cancer.

Post 1

What about black tongue? Is this a symptom of tongue cancer?

I had this happen to me recently. It did go away after a few days but I can't help but wonder if it's a sign of cancer. I also get canker sores frequently. Are canker sores symptoms of tongue or mouth cancer?

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