What is Carcinoma of the Tongue?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2019
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Carcinoma of the tongue is a type of skin cancer that appears on some part of the tongue. Without early treatment, the cancer may spread to other parts of the body, creating a potential medical crisis. Symptoms of carcinoma of the tongue may include abnormally colored patches of skin on the tongue, a lump or sore that will not go away, or difficulty swallowing. Treatment for this condition may include surgery to remove the cancerous cells, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

Early symptoms of carcinoma of the tongue often include the presence of small white patches on the tongue. In some cases, red patches or a mixture of red and white patches may appear. A lump or sore that may or may not hurt is another potential symptom. The tongue may begin to bleed for no apparent reason, or chewing and swallowing may become difficult or painful. Many cases of carcinoma of the tongue are diagnosed during a routine visit to the dentist, especially if pain or other bothersome symptoms are not present.


Other medical conditions, including infection, often cause symptoms that are similar to those of carcinoma of the tongue. For this reason, any bothersome symptoms should be reported to a doctor or dentist so that a through evaluation can be performed. When diagnosed early, carcinoma of the tongue can be easily treated in most cases before it has a chance to spread to other parts of the body. If cancer is suspected, a procedure known as a biopsy may be performed by having a small piece of the suspicious tissue removed and sent to a lab to be tested for the presence of cancer cells.

If the suspected diagnosis of carcinoma of the tongue is confirmed, treatment will typically begin right away. In many cases, a minor surgery to remove the cancerous portion of the tongue is all that is needed. Further testing will need to be done after the procedure to make sure the cancer has not moved to other area of the body. Reconstructive surgery or cosmetic surgery may be done following this procedure, depending on the amount of tissue that is removed during the cancer surgery.

In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation therapy is needed in order to treat carcinoma of the tongue. Chemotherapy involves introducing various chemicals into the body in an effort to kill the cancer cells. Radiation therapy uses high levels of energy to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used together to treat cancer patients.


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Post 3

Is there a way to do reconstruction after surgical excision of the cancer on the tongue? I heard that this type of surgery leads to a banana shaped tongue and it can be difficult to speak afterward.

Post 2

@fify-- My dad has tongue cancer. He has "squamous cell carcinoma" and it has taken over most of his tongue. Right now he's getting both radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The doctor said that he would either have to get these or have his tongue removed and of course he didn't want that. We're praying and hoping that he can beat the cancer without requiring surgery. The good thing is that the chemotherapy should prevent the cancer from spreading and causing mouth and throat cancer as well.

If your doctor has not recommended radiation therapy or chemotherapy, your cancer must not have spread to the entire tongue. You must still be in the initial stages, so hopefully, you can be cancer-free after those patches are removed. Keep us updated.

Post 1

After developing white and red patches on my tongue, I went to see a doctor who took pieces from the patches and sent them for a biopsy. I got the results of the biopsy back this morning, and it's cancer.

I'm devastated but trying to stay calm. The doctor said the next step is removing the cancerous patches and monitoring me for any other abnormal symptoms.

Does anyone else here have tongue cancer? Can you please share your diagnosis and treatment with me? What are my chances of being free from cancer after removal of the tumor?

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