Tongue Cancer: Everything you need to know
Oral cancer or head and neck cancer can come in many forms, one of these is tongue cancer. Doctors and dentists are looking closely into the many cancers that can be found in the mouth to determine how to lessen their incidence at least, if it cannot be totally treated.
In tongue cancer, the squamuos cells are rapidly proliferating carrying the abnormal DNA (cancerous cells). The growth is rapid and uncontrollable. If detected during the early stages, it can be removed by surgery before it spreads to other parts of the body. What you can do is to take note of the appearance of your tongue and see if there is an abrupt change in sensation or appearance. You can also start determining the factors that can trigger this condition.
What causes cancer of the tongue?
The primary cause of tongue cancer and any other cancers is the mutation of the genes or the disarrangement of the DNA.
It has been found that almost 75% of the tongue cancer cases are caused by excessive tobacco use and alcohol drinking. Changes made in the oral cavity like dentures and braces can cause lesions which leads to infection. If the lesion is permanently irritated, it may develop into cancer. Ill-fitting denture causes irritation of the tongue and even frequent biting of the tongue causes this oral changes on the tongue.
In Asia, the highest numbers of tongue cancer sufferers are those who are frequently chewing betel nuts, paan and even Areca. It was reported that there are 40% East Indians who got tongue cancer compared with only 4% of the Europeans.
Gender is one of the determinant of having tongue cancer. This is because of the different lifestyles that each gender practices. The male counter parts have the tendency to use tobacco more and to drink alcohol more. These behavior is a surefire signs that oral cancer can occur more likely than not.
Also people over age 40 have a higher risk of developing tongue cancer. That is why it is even more important to have your dentist check for any signs and symptoms of oral cancer on a regular basis.
Irritation of the mucosal cavity of the mouth can trigger tongue cancer. Use of tobacco and alcoholic drinks causes irritation of the mucosal membranes and increase the risk of tongue cancer.
And of course if oral cancer runs in the family, then you are at much higher risk of developing some sort of head and neck or oral cancer.
Are you at risk?
If you are a smoker, or you drink too much alcohol or you have lesions or sores in your mouth, white or red patches or spots, then these can be signs of oral cancer. Not necessarily every lesion is cancerous, most probably aren’t but it is best to have your dentist check it to make sure it’s nothing to be concerned about. Remember, if it is cancer and you catch it early, it can be treated and cured. But if it’s caught later because of its fast growing nature, then the death rate is very high.
If you have difficulty swallowing and it persists more than a couple of days, you should have it checked out, because if it’s due to a cold then it should go away in a few days, but if it persists, that can be a sign of tongue or throat cancer.
If you have numbness, then get yourself checked out right away because cancer can kill nerve cells and cause numbness. also, be aware of any speech changes which can also be another sign of tongue cancer or swollen tongue.
Bleeding in the mouth, any part of mouth can be a cause for concern. Now we are not talking about bleeding of your gums after you brush or floss, that indicates you may have gum disease. We are talking about bleeding in your mouth when it’s not triggered by anything. If you taste blood in your mouth, you need to have it checked right away to make sure it is not tongue cancer or any other cancer of the mouth.
Keep in mind that prevention is still the cure especially with tongue cancer. You need to be more proactive in your own health to make sure if you do have tongue cancer, it is caught early. Yes, your dentist might be able to see a lump or lesion by doing an oral cancer exam and chances of detection is good, but sometimes there might not be a lump or lesion and your dentist can miss the early stages. Your doctor may just say it’s nothing, or if you are a smoker, they might just write it off as side effect of smoking. If you notice more than one of the above signs and symptoms, you need to insist on a more thorough evaluation, don’t give up easily. Remember, your chances of a cure and survival rate can be 100% with early treatment of tongue cancer and you can still enjoy a good life with your loved ones. Don’t wait and ignore the signs until the cancer has spread and now the death rate is very high. Don’t take that chance!
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By: Ladan Zinati