Tongue cancer symptoms causes treatment focus arztsuche

Cancer of the tongue is a rare type of cancer. Read about what exactly tongue cancer is and the symptoms by which it can be recognized.

What is tongue cancer??

Tongue cancer is a rare malignant tumor that develops in the area of the tongue. Doctors also refer to this type of cancer as carcinoma of the tongue. Cancer of the tongue is one of the head and neck tumors, which include cancers in more than 30 regions of the head and neck. In this group the tongue cancer belongs to the tumors of the oral cavity and pharynx.

Tongue cancer can develop in different places. It most often develops on
base of the tongue. It can also occur at the edge of the tongue, at the tip of the tongue or at the lingual frenulum.

Tongue cancer can develop in principle from different cells. But about 95 out of 100 tongue cancers are squamous cell. These arise from the surface cells of the skin or mucous membrane.

Frequency and age

Tongue cancer comes relatively rare but exact figures on the frequency are not available. Only the incidence of malignant tumors of the mouth and revenge can be approximately quantified: Every year in Germany, approximately 9.300 men and 3.700 women are newly diagnosed – men are clearly in the majority.

Malignant tumors of the oral cavity usually develop in the middle and older age. The age peak is approximately between the age of 50. and 65. Age. However, tumors in the oral cavity have been developing increasingly in younger people for several years now.

Tongue cancer: symptoms are tumors on the tongue

In the early stages, tongue cancer is not easy to recognize. Because a smaller tumor on the tongue often still causes no symptoms. Most people do not experience symptoms until the tongue cancer is already more advanced.

What does tongue cancer look like?

Tongue tumors occur in different variants. The tumors on the tongue can:

– Be flat or slightly raised in shape – Grow inward like a crater and have an irregular, hard edge – Grow outward like a hemisphere and a cauliflower.

Detecting tongue cancer – first signs

A typical sign of tongue cancer is a sore spot (ulcer = ulcer) in the tongue area, which has not healed even after two weeks. Sometimes it begins to bleed, when you touch the spot. Also whitish (leukoplakia) or reddish (Erythoplactie) spots, that cannot be wiped off and do not disappear, can be a precursor of tongue cancer. Leukoplakia is very common: Up to 62 percent of oral cavity cancers develop from such whitish tie changes, according to studies.

If you notice symptoms like these on your tongue, you should see a doctor (dentist) quickly to get them checked out. In general, the earlier doctors detect tongue cancer, the better it can be treated and the better the chances of recovery.

Therefore, you should have a dental check-up twice a year. Your dentist examines not only the health of your teeth, but also the tongue and oral mucosa.

Other symptoms of tongue cancer

Some people experience other symptoms that can be used to identify tongue cancer. These include, but are not limited to:

– Foreign body or "lump feeling" (globus sensation) in the area of the mouth and tongue – burning sensation in the tongue area, which increases when swallowing – "sandpaper feeling" in the mouth area – hard lumps in the tongue – difficulty swallowing – many find swallowing uncomfortable and stressful – increased salivation – numbness in the tongue – clearly noticeable bad breath – scratchy throat – sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and lower jaw – problems with speaking (slurred speech) and chewing, because the tongue can no longer be moved easily – loosening of teeth or a denture that falls out – the dentist often detects a tie change in the oral cavity that is suspicious for cancer


You can find out more about cancer and oncology in the cancer ie of FOCUS-GESUNDHEIT, available as E-Paper or Print booklet.

Tongue cancer: Treatment should completely eliminate the tumor

Treatment for tongue cancer aims to remove the tumor as completely as possible and eliminate all cancer cells in the body. Only then is a complete cure possible in principle.

For the treatment of tumors in the oral and maxillofacial region, the following methods are available three procedures available: Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Doctors often combine several cancer therapies to improve the chances of a cure. Which treatments are considered depends on the size and the extent of the tumor in the tongue. Often, tongue cancer is not confined to the organ, but spreads to the lower jaw or neck via the lymphatic system.

Several specialists are involved in the treatment of tongue cancer (as with any type of cancer). These include, for example, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, neurosurgeon, oncologist, otolaryngologist, radiologist and pathologist. The medical team will discuss with you which therapy promises the greatest success in your case.

Surgery for tongue cancer

During surgery, doctors try to remove the malignant tumor in the course as well as any metastases that may be present. The smaller the tumor, the less invasive the operation and only part of the tongue is removed. If the cancer is already more advanced, surgeons have to remove larger parts of the tongue. Glossectomy is the technical term for it.

During the procedure, the surgeon also removes (preventively) lymph nodes in the neck area. Because carcinomas in the oral and maxillofacial region often spread through the lymphatic system. If cancer settles (metastases) in the tongue. Sometimes it does not remain with the removal of the neck lymph nodes, but doctors also remove surrounding tie with blood vessels, nerves and muscles. Doctors refer to this procedure as "neck dissection". Thanks to sophisticated surgical techniques, surgeons today can cut out the malignant tie well. Nevertheless, the function of the organ is largely preserved. This means that the tongue can still perform its functions, such as food intake, swallowing or speaking, after surgery. This saves sufferers serious losses in quality of life.

Radiation therapy for tongue cancer

Radiation is another important method in the treatment of tongue cancer. Radiologists direct high-energy ionizing radiation at the tumor X-rays directly to the tumor tie. The radiation damages the ergbut of the cancer cells to such an extent that they can no longer multiply and perish.

Doctors often use radiation therapy after surgery. In this way, they also destroy cancer cells that the surgeon did not "get" during the procedure in the tongue or neck area.

Sometimes radiation therapy is also used at the beginning of treatment to initially reduce the size of the tumor in the tongue. Then it can be operated on more gently afterwards and doctors can preserve larger parts of the tongue.

Chemotherapy for tongue cancer

In some people, the tongue cancer is already more advanced. Cancer cells have broken away from the tumor, gone "on a journey" and settled in other areas. These daughter tumors (metatases) can no longer be treated only locally.

This is where chemotherapy helps works throughout the body. Oncologists administer drugs that act as Cell toxins (cytostatic drugs) have an effect. They prevent cancer cells from dividing and multiplying and cause them to die off. To be on the safe side, doctors usually start chemotherapy after removing all visible tumor sites.

A combination of radiation and chemotherapy – a so-called Radio chemotherapy – is possible. And for patients with advanced, inoperable tongue cancer, radio-chemotherapy is also an option. This is how the cancer can often still be contained and stopped.

Tongue cancer: research into new treatments

In addition, researchers are developing other cancer therapies, for example, the immunotherapy. It does not act on the cancer cells themselves, but on the immune system. The mediacments sharpen the body's defenses and ensure that the immune system once again acts against the cancer cells itself. Today, doctors already use immunotherapy for lung cancer or skin cancer. In the future, it may be able to help people with tongue cancer.

In a study of patients with advanced squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck, some of whom had already metastasized, doctors used immunotherapy with a special drug: a checkpoint inhibitor. The drug releases the "braking system" of the immune system, as it were. Subsequently, the immune cells attack the cancer cells again and render them harmless. According to initial results, the cancer could be stopped, and in some cases the tumor even regressed.

Researchers are also investigating whether combining immunotherapy with radiation therapy or radio-chemotherapy would be even more effective.

Also at Targeted drugs Research is being carried out into new drugs ("targeted therapy") that target certain characteristics of cancer cells or cut off the blood supply to the tumor. Such antibodies are already in use for various cancers, such as breast cancer or lung cancer.

Tongue cancer: follow-up care is important

Follow-up care for tongue cancer is very important to check the success of the treatment and to quickly detect a possible relapse (recurrence). The follow-up takes place in certain temporal control intervals and includes a variety of examinations.

In the first year after diagnosis, go for follow-up care every one to three months. By the fifth year, you will only need checkups every six months. After that, annual checkups are enough.

Tongue cancer: progression depends on the spread of the cancer

The course of tongue cancer depends crucially on the stage at which the cancer has spread Stage doctors discover the tumor. The size, aggressiveness, and spread of the tumor are important. If doctors find the tumor early, it is easier to treat and in principle still curable. So the course is better for tongue cancer in early stage than in terminal stage. In the latter case, the cancer is already advanced, has metastasized and is usually no longer curable. Nevertheless, even terminal tongue cancer is still treatable.

Risk of recurrence in tongue cancer: In the case of tongue carcinoma, the risk is high that the Cancer returns. This risk of recurrence is high even if doctors have treated the tumor in the tongue at an early stage and it has not yet spread to other regions. Scientists have discovered that the thickness of the tumor in particular has a significant influence on the risk of recurrence. The thinner the tumor, the less often the tongue cancer seems to flare up again.

In the case of tongue cancer, the tie may not only change visually, but also noticeably z.B. such as sandpaper or hard nodules

Tongue cancer: life expectancy is higher in the early stages

The prognosis for tongue cancer depends on the stage the tumor has reached located at the time of diagnosis. In patients whose tongue tumor is smaller than two centimeters and has not yet affected lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is over 79 percent. If the tongue cancer is smaller than four centimeters, 52 percent of patients still survive the first five years.

In the case of a tongue cancer with metastases in the cervical lymph nodes, the chance of survival worsens. It continues to decline if metastases have already developed in other areas of the body. Then the tongue cancer can be fatal. A carcinoma at the edge of the tongue generally has a better prognosis than a tumor that develops in the back of the tongue.

Tongue cancer: causes and risk factors

The exact causes of tongue cancer are not yet fully understood. However, doctors know some risk factors that promote tongue carcinoma. The main risk factor for tongue cancer is the Smoking. Regular nicotine consumption in the form of cigarettes, cigarillos, pipe and chewing tobacco promotes the development of tongue cancer. Tobacco contains countless carcinogenic substances, such as nitrosamines and aromatic hydrocarbons. For example, about 90 percent of all people with tongue cancer are longtime smokers.

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