These are the symptoms that help you recognize cancer of the tongue


Tongue cancer is an insidious cancer. Symptoms are often noticed late.
In stages in which the tongue cancer causes problems, it has often spread to a large extent and has already spread to the surrounding organs. It is all the more important to react early to changes in the tongue that appear unusual. Certain signs point to tongue cancer and must be clarified quickly, as the disease progresses very quickly.

These are the typical symptoms of tongue cancer

The following are the most common symptoms of tongue cancer. These are relatively unspecific, but if you suspect you should see a doctor for clarification.

  • Sore throat
  • difficulties swallowing

  • Lumpy language

  • Bad breath

  • Restriction of movement of the tongue

  • Noticeable changes on the tongue

  • salivation

  • Earache

  • Foreign body sensation

These symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of throat cancer.
Find out more at: What are the symptoms of throat cancer?

Spots on the tongue in tongue cancer

Spots on the tongue can be an early indication of a malicious event. However, injuries to the tongue, such as burns, can also cause temporary changes in color and finish. Infections can also lead to changes in the tongue, but once the infection has subsided, the spots should also subside.
However, if the stains have been present for a longer period of time for no apparent reason, the cause should be clarified by a doctor.

also read: Red spots on the tongue - causes and treatment

Sore throat with tongue cancer

An ulcer that develops on the back of the tongue called the base of the tongue can cause a sore throat. This pain is caused by irritation of the pain receptors on the tongue.

The sore throat is aggravated by swallowing. Due to the pain when swallowing, there is less food intake to avoid the pain. One possible consequence is malnutrition, which has an additional negative impact on the course of the disease. But not only is it painful to swallow food or drink, it is also painful to swallow saliva.

Difficulty swallowing in cancer of the tongue

The swallowing process is a very complex process that requires the correct coordination of many muscles of the mouth and throat. The ulcer that forms on the tongue disrupts swallowing properly.

Part of the process involves pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth, which is only possible to a limited extent in the case of a tongue ulcer. Another major reason for the swallowing disorder is the mechanical obstruction caused by the tongue cancer.

Put simply, the normal route food takes is narrowed through the ulcer. In advanced diseases, damage to the nerves, which are very important for coordination, also leads to the swallowing process being restricted.

Learn more at: Pain when swallowing

Lumpy language in cancer of the tongue

Like the process of swallowing, speech generation is a very complex process that requires a large number of different movements of the oral cavity. The lumpy language sounds, as the name suggests, as if the person concerned had a lump in their mouth.

Normal language formation is disturbed by the growth on the tongue. When generating speech, the mouth, nose and throat must form a certain shape in order to generate the desired sound. Cancer can no longer produce this form as usual, which is why the language sounds different.

Bad breath in tongue cancer

The technical term for bad breath is foetor ex ore, there are many different causes of an unpleasant odor in the exhaled air. The cause is very often in the mouth or throat. In the worst case, the bad breath is caused by a cancerous ulcer in the mouth. Other possible causes are poor dental hygiene or inflammation.

In the case of tongue cancer, the odor is caused by bacterial decomposition. In tongue cancer, tissue of the tongue becomes necrotic, which means that the tissue dies. The bacteria in the oral cavity then break down the dead tissue. In the metabolism of bacteria, among other things, sulfur-containing compounds are formed, which are responsible for the unpleasant smell.

Also read: Bad breath

Bleeding from tongue cancer

Since the newly formed tissue in a cancerous ulcer usually grows uncoordinated and does not form a particularly stable construct, the ulcer is easy to injure. To make matters worse, an important mechanism of cancer development involves the formation of new blood vessels. This so-called Neoangiogenesis leads to the fact that the tongue cancer is partially supplied with blood. The combination of the tissue, which is per se very susceptible to injury, and an excessively strong blood flow means that increased bleeding can occur.

Swollen lymph nodes on the neck and lower jaw in tongue cancer

The body's lymph vessels and nodes perform a variety of tasks. They are very important for the defense against germs and they transport fluids and various substances from the tissue in the direction of the bloodstream.

In the case of malignant changes, in this case tongue cancer, cancer cells can detach themselves from the tissue and migrate into the lymph nodes via the lymph vessels. Since cancer cells can escape the body's own control, they do not die there, but multiply. This makes the lymph nodes larger and appear swollen.

In tongue cancer, the closest lymph nodes are particularly at risk. These include the lymph nodes in the lower jaw, neck and neck, and finally in the armpits.

Even with inflammation in the oral cavity, the lymph nodes are enlarged as part of a normal defense reaction. However, inflammatory changes in the lymph nodes tend to be painful, while malignant lymph node processes tend to be painless.

Find out more at: Lymph node swelling in the neck - How dangerous is it?

Tongue pain in tongue cancer

The tongue is an organ that has a very strong supply of nerves. This strong connection to the nervous system has several reasons.
The taste receptors take on the task of food control and are very important to recognize inedible food in a split second. In addition, the tongue's sense of touch is very pronounced because, on the one hand, dangerous objects must be recognized and, on the other hand, it must always be determined in which position the tongue is in order to avoid injury to the teeth.

So you can guess that the tongue is also extremely sensitive to pain. Most people are familiar with the severe pain that arises from the smallest injury to the tongue. In large tissue defects such as tongue cancer, the pain receptors are strongly irritated.

also read: Pain in the tongue

Increased salivation in tongue cancer

The increased salivation in tongue cancer has several causes. On the one hand, the irritation of the nerves leads to a reflex increase in saliva production. Saliva has important protective functions and is increasingly formed in response to harmful processes. Another reason for the increased salivation is the difficulty swallowing, which occurs due to tongue cancer. The affected person avoids the painful swallowing, which is why more saliva remains in the mouth.

Symptoms in the early stages of tongue cancer

At the beginning of the disease, the symptoms may be very mild or nonexistent. Because of this, tongue cancer is rarely discovered in the early stages.

The ulcer on the tongue is very small at first and can be mistaken for a harmless altered area. The changes on the tongue, however, have a different color and structure.

Pain or other symptoms, such as bad breath or bleeding, are very rare in the early stages. This is why it is often too long to wait until the person concerned presents himself to a doctor. In the stages in which the ulcer is discovered, it has often already spread. The cancer cells have migrated from the original tumor and are spreading via the lymph vessels or the bloodstream.

For this reason, if you notice changes in the tongue that do not go away after about two weeks, it is essential to consult a doctor.

Find out more at: Tongue cancer

End-stage symptoms of tongue cancer

Tongue cancer can grow very quickly and is then noticeable through the typical symptoms of tongue cancer. The result is tissue death and the ensuing halitosis, bleeding, lumpy speech and severe pain that is aggravated when swallowing.

In a very advanced stage, systemic symptoms are added to the local symptoms. The metabolism of the tumor puts a lot of strain on the body, and weight loss occurs. In addition, the body is weakened by the pain-related reduced food intake. The patient becomes progressively weaker. In the very late stages, when the tumor is very large, breathing can be impaired. Symptoms such as cold sweating or fever of unclear cause can indicate cancer, but do not necessarily have to occur.

If treatment is only started in these very advanced stages, the prognosis is much worse, so it is all the more important to closely monitor changes in the tongue and in the entire oral cavity and to consult a doctor at an early stage.

You might also be interested in: What is the life expectancy with tongue cancer?

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