top of page

Tongue Cancer


What Is Tongue Cancer ?

Tongue cancer happens when the cells of the tongue grow abnormally. This can be first detected during a routine examination of your tongue by a dentist or doctor. Tongue cancer is most common in older men than in women. The chances increase in people older than 55 years.


Tongue cancer is generally not detected very early; it will take some time before symptoms start showing up, these include

  • Sore or presence of a lump

  • Bleeding from the tongue

  • Difficulty in swallowing

  • Presence of lump in the neck

  • Mouth or Tongue pain



The cause of tongue cancer is unknown. However, HPV Viruses are known to be able to cause cancer at the base of the tongue. Certain other habits and conditions may raise your chance of getting tongue cancer such as:

tongue cancer.jpg


The most common system used for staging Tongue cancer is the TNM system. 

  • T stands for Tumour. It is used to describe the size of the tumour. It also helps to determine whether tumour has grown into other parts of the organ or tissues around the organ. It is represented by a range of 1 to 4. The higher the number means the larger the tumour.

  • N stands for Lymph Nodes. It helps determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes around the organ. NX means the impact on lymph nodes cannot be determined. N0 means cancer hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes while N1, N2 and N3 means cancer has spread to lymph nodes. N1 to N3 also shows the range that how many lymph nodes are affected.

  • M stands for Metastasis. It is used to determine if the cancer has spread to other parts of body through blood or lymphatic system. MX means the metastasis cannot be determined; M0 means cancer has not spread to other body parts while M1 indicates that it has spread to other body parts.

  • Sometimes lowercase letters like a, b and c is used to divide the tumour, lymph nodes and metastasis into sub categories. Also lowercase “is” is used to denote carcinoma in situ. For e.g. Tis

For The Convenience Of Grading The Extent Of Spread Of Cancer, The Cancer Is Classified Into 4 Broad Stages.

Stage I

The tumor is 2 centimeters (cm) or smaller, and cancer hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes. (T1, N1, M0)

Stage II

The tumor is between 2-4 cm, and cancer cells haven’t spread to the lymph nodes. (T2, N1, M0)

Stage III

The tumor is either larger than 4 cm and hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes, or is any size and has spread to one lymph node, but not to other distant parts of the body. (T3, N1, M0)

Stage IV

In this stage, the cancer is either larger than 4cm or has spread to a lymph node on the same side of the neck as the tumor. That lymph node is also smaller than 3 cm. Cancer has not reached any distant organ.

Stage V

This is the advanced stage. In this stage, tumors are of any size and the cancer cells have spread to nearby tissues, the lymph nodes, or other distant parts of the body. ((T1-T4, N1-N3, M1)

Risk Factors

The greatest risk factor for having oral cancer is smoking and heavy drinking. Other known risk factors include:

tongue cancer.jpg

Types Of Tongue Cancer

Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common form of tongue cancer.  These are flat cells that line cover the lining of mouth, throat, larynx, etc.

Diagnosis Of Tongue Cancer

Diagnosing cancer starts with doctors seeking medical history like previous cancers in the family, before physical examination of the mouth is done.  On any suspicion of the tumour, the doctors will perform a tissue biopsy.

There are many other ways to diagnose tongue cancer such as:

  • X-rays: For detecting, if cancer cells have spread to the jaw, chest, or lungs

  • CT scan: To reveal any tumours that can be present in your mouth, throat, neck, lungs, or elsewhere in your body

  • PET scan: To determine if cancer has traveled to lymph nodes or other organs in the body.

  • MRI scan: It will show a more accurate image of the head and neck, and determine the extent or stage of cancer.

Treatment Of Tongue Cancer


Treatment for tongue cancer can include the following procedures:

  • Treatment for tongue cancer can include the following procedures:

  • Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the use of medicines that help kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

  • Radiation therapy – Radiation therapy kills cancer cells.


Tongue cancer can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes:

  • Quitting Smoking

  • Tobacco Products

  • Avoid betel leaves and nuts

  • Reduce alcohol intake

  • Practice oral hygiene

bottom of page