The prognosis or outcome of tongue cancer is determined by taking factors such as the physical health of the affected person, the severity of the cancer, and his/her response towards the treatment administered, into consideration. Timely medical intervention can prevent this condition from becoming intense.
The tongue is a muscular organ located in the oral cavity, which is richly supplied with nerves and blood vessels. While the thin membrane called mucosa and salivary glands keep it moist, the taste buds present on its surface help one differentiate between the four tastes – sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. Other functions include speech, chewing, and swallowing the food, etc. There are various infections and diseases which may affect it, owing to unhealthy practices or due to the presence of pathogens. Some of these diseases can be cured with the help of proper treatment methods, whereas some may be incurable in nature. Cancer is one such disease that affects the tongue. This cancer of the tongue is also known as oral cancer, and may lead to a number of complications.
One of the main causes of this medical condition is squamous cell carcinoma, which is also one of the leading causes of many other cancers. The tumor, which appears as a white bump, grows on the front of the tongue (two-thirds of it). As time progresses, these tumors increase in size and may lead to painful sores. The incidence of this condition is more in men, as compared to women, and is commonly seen in men above 40 years of age.
The main cause for this mouth cancer is excessive intake of alcohol and smoking. Chewing tobacco, betel, or areca nuts can also make the individual susceptible to this condition. These substances release toxins, which may trigger the unhealthy growth and spread of cancerous cells. Other risk factors for this medical condition may include a weak immune system, improper diet habits, exposure to toxic chemicals, etc. This medical condition may metastasize and spread to the lymph nodes. This condition when spread to the throat is referred to as oropharyngeal cancer.
There are several signs which can indicate this disease. Observing these symptoms will help diagnose the exact stage of cancer.
- The early symptoms of cancer can be noticed on the lips in the form of sores, which may take a longer time to subside. There is also a formation of pus-filled sores in the corners of the mouth. These can spread to the oral cavity and become tongue sores.
- The development of ulcers at the edge of the tongue is also an indication of cancer. These ulcers or lesions can be pinkish-gray to red in color, and may bleed on being bitten or touched.
- Tongue pain, and a feeling of numbness followed by difficulty in chewing and swallowing can be noticed. Bad breath can also be observed as one of the symptoms, especially in the advanced stages.
- If the cancer has spread to the throat, then it may exhibit symptoms like a sore throat, metallic taste in the mouth, and change in the voice. This condition may also spread to the gums and teeth and exhibit symptoms like bleeding gums, appearance of white patches on the gums, loose teeth etc.
Treatment and Prognosis
The diagnosis of the medical condition can be done with the help of an oral exam, biopsy of tumor, and blood tests. Once these tests are done, the treatment according to the stage of cancer, is administered. The treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation help destroy the cancerous cells and also restrict their development. Surgery, mainly radical neck dissection, is opted for, when the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes, and needs to be removed. After the surgery, the person may require the assistance of a speech therapist to get back to the normal state.
As with all cancers, this medical condition, also has four stages based on the spread of the cancerous cells. Early detection of oral squamous cell carcinoma always proves beneficial and with the help of proper treatment, the growth of the cells can be controlled. The contributory factors of the prognosis are age, overall health of the patient, the stage at which the cancer was detected, the treatment administered, and how the patient is responding to the treatment. The survival rate of this cancer is fairly good, if the cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, and the patient is responding well to the treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, the 5-year relative survival rate for the first, second, third, and fourth stage is 71%, 59%, 47%, and 37% respectively.
It is also beneficial to stay away from vices like alcohol, smoking and tobacco chewing, etc. A regular oral checkup is advisable in order to keep oral disorders at bay.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.