What Are the First Signs of Tongue Cancer?

Tongue cancer is a specific type of oral cancer that develops on the front two-thirds of the tongue. Most often, the cancer forms in the squamous cells on the tongue’s surface. Many people believe that tongue cancer symptoms must always be obvious because the tongue plays such a major role in the ability to speak, eat and drink. However, many early signs of tongue cancer can also be caused by other conditions that are far more common and less serious, and therefore they may not always cause immediate concern. For this reason, it’s important to pay close attention to changes in your tongue and to promptly seek medical attention if symptoms develop.

The most common signs of tongue cancer

Be sure to consult with a physician if you are exhibiting any of the following symptoms:

  • A thickened area or lump in your mouth
  • Lingering pain in your tongue and/or jaw
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • A red or white patch on your tongue, the inner lining of your cheeks, your gums, the roof of your mouth or your tonsils
  • A sore throat or throat irritation that does not go away

Who is at risk for developing tongue cancer?

Anyone can develop oral cancer, but there are certain factors that can increase your chance of developing a malignancy on your tongue, lips, gums or elsewhere in your mouth. These risk factors include:

  • Using tobacco of any kind, including chewing tobacco and snuff, cigarettes and cigars
  • Exposing your lips to too much sun
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Having a weakened immune system due to other illnesses or genetic conditions
  • Being exposed to human papillomavirus (HPV)

If you’d like to speak with an oral cancer expert who can evaluate your symptoms and provide cancer treatment, if necessary, turn to Moffitt Cancer Center. To take the first step, complete a new patient registration form online or call 1-888-663-3488. No referrals are necessary to visit Moffitt.