Tongue cancer falls under the general category of oral cancer, which can affect not only the tongue, but also the lips, cheeks, tissues inside the month, the sinuses and throat. It is important to treat oral cancer, because it can spread to other areas of the body and become life-threatening. To help prevent complications, it is important to be able to recognize the early signs of tongue cancer.
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Red or White Patches
Catching tongue cancer in the early stages is challenging, because it can be present without causing any pain or clearly visible symptoms, warns the Oral Cancer Foundation. Early stage oral cancer is most often caught by a dentist or doctor who is trained to notice subtle changes in the tissues.
One of the first early warning signs is the development white or red patches of tissue on the tongue. Patches may also develop on the gums or other areas of the mouth. Any sore, patch of discolored tissue or other abnormality that does not heal within 14 days, should be evaluated.
Lumps or masses of tissue that form on the tongue may be another early warning sign of tongue cancer, claims MayoClinic.com. The lump may be white in color and look like an ulcer. Individuals who smoke or consume large amounts of alcohol are at an increased risk and need to be screened regularly.
Tongue cancer is highly curable if caught in the early stages. If tongue cancer is suspected, a physician can perform biopsies and various scans to confirm a diagnosis.
Tongue cancer can also make chewing and swallowing painful. In addition, the patches or sores on the tongue may bleed easily. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America recommend seeking medical attention if there is a chronic sore throat or if the pain radiates to the ears. Changes in voice or numbness and loss of sensation in the tongue or mouth are other causes for concern. If tongue cancer is diagnosed, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery can all be used to treat it.
An overactive immune system can cause inflammation or swelling in the mouth. If this occurs, there may be changes in bite, or dentures may no longer fit right, states the Oral Cancer Foundation. Screening for oral cancer can be performed by a dentist at each 6-month checkup. More frequent screenings may be recommend for those at a higher risk.