ENT Head & Neck Surgery Center

Rm 02, 5/F., Kai Seng Commerical Centre,
4-6 Hankow Road, TST Kln, HK
(near Kowloon Hotel)
Tel: (852) 3100 0555
Fax: (852) 3100 0556

Lawrence Chow / ENT Doctor

What is tongue cancer and its Symptoms? Who is Likely to Get tongue cancer?

What is tongue cancer?

Tongue cancer is a form of head and neck cancer that involves the tongue. Although it is one of the rarest forms of cancer, it’s also one of the deadliest. The five-year survival rate for this type of cancer is only about 10 to 15%. Moreover, the symptoms may not be too obvious at first and can vary from person to person. In this article, you will learn more about tongue cancer , its type and symptoms, and who is likely to get tongue cancer.

Generally, there are two types of tongue cancer:

  1. Cancer of the oral tongue: The front two-thirds of the tongue that you can stick out is called the oral tongue.
  2. Cancer of the base of the tongue: The base is the back one-third of the tongue that extends down the throat.


Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

Tongue cancer is an umbrella term for any cancer that starts in the tongue. The tongue has lots of little bumps on its surface, which make it easier for the cancer to spread. As there are two common types of tongue cancer, we may list the symptoms seperately as below:

  1. 1. Oral Tongue Cancer
  2. a) A lump on the side of the tongue that touches the teeth.
  3. b) The lump often looks like an ulcer and is grayish-pink to red.
  4. c) The lump bleeds easily if bitten or touched.
  5. Base of Tongue Cancer

There are few symptoms in the early stages and the tumor is hard to see. It is usually diagnosed when growing larger. In later stages, the cancer may cause obvious symptoms:

  1. Pain,
  2. a sense of fullness in the throat,
  3. difficulty swallowing,
  4. the feeling of a lump in the neck or throat,
  5. voice changes or ear pain.


What causes tongue cancer, and Who is Likely to Get Tongue Cancer?

Some people develop tongue cancer with no risk factors. But it can be found more common in older age groups (age 40 and up). It is twice as common in men.


Other risk factors for this type of cancer are:

  1. Smoking and drinking alcohol

Smokers are five times more likely to develop tongue cancer than nonsmokers. If you have a history of smoking or heavy alcohol consumption, you are more likely to get tongue cancer.


  1. Heavy user of painkillers, AIDS, and human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV 16 and HPV 18 increase the risk of tongue cancer. This infection is as common among men as it is women, and can affect people of any age.


  1. Hereditary Factors

There are also people who have an increased risk for developing this cancer due to hereditary factors. African-American men are at greater risk than Caucasians.


Did you find the information useful? If so, continue reading our ENT posts.


For details of our ENT services, diagnosis, and treatment, please consult our ENT specialist.




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