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  • Writer's pictureDr Cheong Jack Pein

Tongue cancer: How much do you know? 口腔溃疡或口疮还是舌癌? Ulser mulut yang tak sembuh² mungkin kanser lidah?

What is tongue cancer?

Tongue cancer occurs when cells on the tongue become cancerous and form a tumour. In majority of the cases, the tumour is located at the anterior tip and sides (border) of the tongue. About half of all tongue cancers are on the back portion of the tongue. Sometimes, tongue cancer happens in people with a condition called "leukoplakia” where white patches are found on the tongue surface.

What are the risk factors of tongue cancer?

  • Tobacco use: Up to 90 percent of patients with mouth cancers used tobacco. Mouth cancers are six times as common in smokers as in non-smokers.

  • Alcohol consumption: Approximately 75 percent of patients who develop mouth cancers consume alcohol. The disease occurs six times more often in drinkers than in non-drinkers. The risk for a person who smokes tobacco and drinks alcohol is 15 times that of an individual who does neither.

  • Age and gender: Most people with this form of cancer are between 50 to 60 years of age. Males are more likely to develop tongue cancer than females.

  • Leukoplakia: a disorder which causes white patches of skin in the mouth.

  • Erythroplakia: a disorder that causes red superficial patches of skin in the mouth.

  • Poor oral and/or dental hygiene.

  • Plummer-Vinson syndrome: a rare disorder linked to dietary deficiencies.

What are the symptoms of tongue cancer?

  • Most people have no symptoms. Many cases were detected incidentally by their dentists during routine dental check-up.

  • Mostly painless

  • A lump in the tongue

  • Non-healing ulcer on the tongue

  • Bleeding from the tongue ulcer

  • Weight loss

  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing (dysphagia or odynophagia)

  • Earache (otalgia)

  • Cough with blood (hemoptysis)

  • Bad breath (halithosis)

Is there a test for tongue cancer?

Yes. Your doctor will look in your mouth and down your throat using a "scope," which is a thin tube with a camera and light on the end. During this procedure, he or she might do a procedure called a biopsy. For a biopsy, the doctor takes a small sample of tissue from the area that looks like cancer. Then another doctor looks at the sample under a microscope in a laboratory. You might also need an imaging test, such as an MRI, CT, or PET scan.

How is tongue cancer treated?

Treatment for tongue cancer involves one or more of the following:

●Surgery – In most cases, tongue cancer is treated with surgery to remove the cancer.

●Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.

●Radiation therapy – Radiation kills cancer cells.

What happens if my tongue cancer comes back or spreads?

If your tongue cancer comes back or spreads, you might have more surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.

What else should I do?

It's important to follow all of your doctor's instructions about visits and tests. It's also important to talk to your doctor about any side effects or problems you have during treatment.

tongue cancer, non healing ulcer of tongue, kanser lidah, 舌癌
Non-healing ulcer of more than 3 weeks should raise suspicion of a possible cancer of the tongue.

Cancer tongue, kanser lidah, 舌癌
Growth on the side (border) of the tongue.

leukoplakia on the tongue and buccal mucosa
White patches in the mouth or tongue often precede the onset of cancer growth.

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