symptoms and causes

the tongue cancer usually affects the mobile part of the tongue. It develops in the squamous cells located on the surface of the tongue. The noticeable signs of this type of cancer are a sore on the tongue that does not heal, a sore tongue, or difficulty in swallowing. In France, it is the most widespread type of cancer which often affects men aged over 50.

What are the causes of tongue cancer?

Scientific researchers do not fully understand why some people have this infection in the tongue. However, several factors can increase the risk of developing the disease. These factors include:

  • the smoking asset
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • An unhealthy diet low in fruits and vegetables, but high in red meat or processed foods
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection
  • poor hygiene buccal or other factors affecting the mouth such as jagged teeth which may cause irritation

The telltale signs of the disease

In the early stages of cancer, you may not notice any symptoms. But it usually manifests as a sore on the tongue which is difficult to heal and bleeds easily. You may also feel pain in your mouth or tongue.

Other clues include:

  • A red or white spot that appears on the mucosa mouth or tongue
  • The feeling of pain when swallowing
  • Numbness of the mouth
  • Persistent sore throat
  • the bleeding of the tongue without apparent cause
  • Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
  • Thickening of the lining of the mouth
  • Dentures that no longer fit properly

The people most exposed to mouth cancer, such as those who smoke or drink excessively should be careful of all these signs. If they have any of these symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention to examine their mouth.

How is it detected?

To detect tongue cancer, your doctor will first review your medical history. They may ask you if you have a family history of HPV, if you smoke or drink, and if you have ever tested positive for the HPV virus. He will then perform a physical examination of your mouth with the aim of diagnose signs of cancers such as ulcers not healed. It will also examine the lymph nodes nearby to check a swelling.

In case your doctor identifies the signs of tongue cancer, he will carry out a biopsy of the suspected area. This diagnosis involves removing a small piece of the tissue affected by the cancer. This is often done under local anesthesia. The sampled tissue will then be tested in a laboratory. If the result is positive, the doctor may ask you to perform a CT scan to assess the depth of the disease and its extension.

Can he be warned?

It is not possible to prevent tongue cancer from developing. However, if you notice any of the signs of cancer, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible. Indeed, if the disease is diagnosed as soon as possible followed by treatment, the prospects for recovery are favorable.

But there are also bad lifestyle habits that you can control to reduce the risk of developing tongue cancer. To do this, it is advisable to:

  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid chewing tobacco products
  • Limit alcohol intake or avoid it completely
  • Adopt a healthy and varied diet including lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Have good dental hygiene by brushing your teeth regularly and going to a dentist every six months if possible.
  • Receive full treatment with the HPV vaccine

The treatment of the disease


Treatment for tongue cancer depends on the size of the tongue. tumor, its location, local invasion, general condition and the patient’s medical history. The main treatment remainsablation or cutting out the entire tumour. Large tumors mainly need to be removed using a surgical operation called a partial glossectomy, in which part of the tongue is removed. If surgeons remove a large piece of tongue, they may reconstruct part of the tongue. During this operation, your doctor will take a piece of skin from another part of your body and use it to reconstruct your tongue.

Note that glossectomy can cause significant side effects, including difficulty eating, breathing, swallowing or speaking. If so, a speech therapist or dietitian can help you learn to adapt to these changes.

Radiation therapy

A radiotherapy may also be needed after surgery to ensure that all cancerous cells are removed. This type of treatment destroys cancer cells using high-energy rays or particles. Radiation therapy is also one of the main treatment options in rare cases where surgery is not possible.


Your healthcare professional can therefore recommend a chemotherapy to treat your cancer in combination with surgery and radiotherapy.


In case the cancer reappears or spreads, the use of an immunotherapy drug becomes essential to fight the cancer.

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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