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Tongue Cancer Warning - the Symptoms you Shouldn't be Ignoring

Tongue Cancer Warning - the Symptoms you Shouldn't be Ignoring

Tongue cancer may not be one of the most common cancers in the UK, but is the sixth most common form of cancer worldwide. There are seven symptoms you need to watch out for, and you could be at risk if you smoke.

Tongue cancer symptoms can be found on the front two thirds of the tongue or the base of the tongue, and may be confused for less serious health conditions. If cancer develops on the front two thirds of the tongue (the oral tongue) then this is classed as mouth cancer. If cancer develops on the base of the tongue, this is classed as tongue cancer.

What are the Symptoms of Tongue Cancer?

These include:

  • A red or white patch on the tongue that won't go away
  • A sore throat that doesn't go away
  • A sore spot (ulcer) or lump on the tongue that doesn't go away
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Numbness in the mouth that won't go away
  • Unexplained bleeding from the tongue (that's not caused by biting your tongue or other injury)
  • Pain in the ear (rare)

Please note: it is important to remember these symptoms may be due to less serious medical conditions. As well as cancer, your mouth can indicate a number of different health problems, from a food intolerance to vitamin deficiency.

What are the Risk Factors?

While the exact cause of tongue cancer is unknown, the 'Mouth Cancer Action Foundation' notes several risk factors have been identified. It states: “Smoking tobacco (cigarettes, cigars and pipes) and drinking a lot of alcohol are the main risk factors for cancer of the head and neck in the western world.

“The HPV virus transmitted through sexual contact is another risk factor. Having a risk factor means your risk is increased. But it does not mean you will definitely develop cancer.”

What would Treatment Involve?

Treatment for mouth cancer and oropharyngeal cancer will depend on a few things:

  • The type and size of the cancer
  • The grade and how far it’s spread
  • Your general health

In relation to mouth cancer, the NHS advises: “If the cancer hasn't spread beyond the mouth or tongue – the bit of your throat at the back of your mouth – a complete cure may be possible using surgery alone. If the cancer is large or has spread to your neck, surgery, radiotherapy and even chemotherapy may be necessary to control it".

Get in Touch

If you are concerned about any aspect of your oral health then please contact us by calling us on 020 8563 7177 or by emailing us at for an appointment with your dentist. We will be able to do a full soft tissue check of your mouth and provide you with any relevant guidance and support. 

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