Cancers We Treat

Clinical Programs & Services

For Patients & Families

Find a Doctor

Cancers We Treat

Tongue Cancer

Learn about what Baptist Cancer Center offers you in terms of leading-edge tongue cancer treatments.

Tongue Cancer Explained

Tongue cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that grows along or in any part of the tongue, the muscular organ that extends from the throat to the mouth. Cancer of the tongue is called oral tongue cancer. When cancer is located at the base of the tongue, or the back third of the tongue near the tonsils and soft palate, it is called oropharyngeal cancer.

Nerves and muscles that make up the tongue are important to swallowing, eating and speaking. Tongue cancer can affect many or all of these functions.

Tongue Cancer Treatment Options

Though treatment recommendations may vary depending on your type and stage of tongue cancer, treatment may include chemotherapy, surgery or radiation therapy, or some combination of these.

A referral to a dietitian and a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist may be recommended to assist in eating, swallowing or speaking symptoms.

The Different Types of Tongue Cancer

While several types of cancer can grow on the tongue, most tongue cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, similar to the cells that are common to a type of skin cancer. Most oropharyngeal cancers, as much as 70%, may be related to human papillomavirus (HPV).

Learn the Symptoms and Causes

Recognizing the signs of tongue cancer allows for timely intervention, potentially increasing the chances of successful treatment and improving your quality of life.

What are the risk factors and tongue cancer causes?

As with most cancers, the direct cause of tongue cancer is often unknown. However, smoking or tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, use of betel quid or paan/pan (an herbal chew popular in some Asian cultures), or a history of an HPV infection are all risk factors for developing tongue cancer.

If you smoke or use tobacco, stopping all tobacco products is recommended. Baptist Cancer Center has a smoking cessation program and support groups available through our THRIVE Survivorship Program.

Tongue Cancer Symptoms

During cancer’s early stages, symptoms may not be present. Often, tongue cancer is identified during a routine oral exam by a doctor or dentist. Tongue cancer symptoms usually begin with a sore on the tongue that does not heal. With oropharyngeal cancer, swollen lymph nodes in the neck is a common first sign. Other tongue cancer symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the tongue or throat
  • Difficulty or pain with chewing, swallowing or speaking
  • Bleeding and coughing up blood
  • Numbness in the mouth, tongue or throat
  • The sensation of something being stuck in your throat
  • Swelling in the jaw
  • Voice changes
  • Ear pain

Three doctors in a professional conversation.

Related Information

Connect With a Patient Navigator

As a patient at Baptist Cancer Center, you will have access to a dedicated patient navigator who will act as your advocate and liaison between you and your health care teams. Our patient navigators are available at every step to schedule appointments, answer questions, explain the treatment process, and provide resources, education and support when you and your family need it.