Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

Diagnosis and Treatment of Tongue Cancer

The tongue is composed of two parts: the base of the tongue and the mobile tongue (the part of the tongue that moves freely). Most tongue cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, meaning they arise from flat, thin cells in the epidermis lining the region.

Improving Your Chances of Success

Tobacco and alcohol consumption are the primary causes of tongue cancers. Encouragingly, studies have shown that you will respond better to treatment if you can stop smoking or chewing tobacco during and after receiving therapy. The Stanford Cancer Center offers free smoking cessation services to help you meet this important goal.

In early stages, cancer in the tongue may not cause symptoms. Nevertheless, early detection and treatment of tongue cancer greatly improves survival rates. Therefore, in addition to checking your own mouth for suspicious changes, your dentist should inspect your mouth for signs of all oral cancers during your regular dental exams, particularly if you regularly use tobacco or alcohol.

Stanford Expertise

Like all head and neck cancers, tongue cancer is rare. Therefore, it is important to be seen by a team of physicians who have expertise in treating this specific disease. Tongue cancers can be treated with surgery and/or radiation and in rare instances experimental chemotherapy, depending on the stage and type of cancer. The head and neck cancer specialists at the Stanford Cancer Center have experience treating tongue cancer, and will provide you with the multidisciplinary, quality, compassionate care that you deserve. Your doctors and nurses will take care to minimize and manage treatment side effects like mucositis, and if the cancer is advanced, reconstructive surgeons and speech therapists are integrated into treatment to ensure maximum success in preserving your ability to taste, swallow, and speak.

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