Tongue cancer is the most common oral cancer, and it accounts for 32%-39% of all oral cancers. As the incidence of tongue cancer rises gradually, to know and understand its causes and symptoms will help you detect and treat it early.
Causes of Tongue Cancer
1. Physical factors: chronic ulcers caused by continual friction between local lesions (residual root, residual crown and sharp dental ridge) and the margin of tongue may further develop into tongue cancer. Unhealthy oral hygiene can lead to choric inflammation. Plus mechanical injuries, it can be another co-carcinogenic factor. X-ray is also one of the physical factors; there are many cases caused by radiotherapy clinically.
2. Chemical factors: Addiction to tobacco and alcohol are found to be related to the occurrence of tongue cancer. The nicotine in tobacco may cause cancer. Alcohol does not cause cancer, but ethanol in it can be solvent of cancerogenic substances and carry them into the mucous membrane of tongue.
3. Biological carcinogens: Previous studies have showed that some papilloma viruses are related to the cause of tongue cancer.
4. Others: low immunity, nutrition metabolism diseases, etc.
5. Precancerous lesions: clinically some tongue cancers have oblivious precancerous pathological changes or lesions.
Signs and Symptoms of Early-stage Tongue Cancer
Most tongue cancers develop on normal mucous membrane of tongue, which show as primary lesions. Only a few of them are developed from precancerous lesions. Most tongue cancers have no obvious early symptoms. When patients go to see a doctor due to tongue pain, usually the tumors have already exceeded 1-2 cm. Early-stage tongue cancers may be manifested as ulcerated, exophytic or infiltrative type. Exophytic tongue cancers are developed from canceration of papilloma, like cauliflowers. The most common clinical presentations of tongue cancer are ulcerated or infiltrative type often with spontaneous pain or tenderness, and some people even feel ear pain. Those lesions may accompany with infection, bleeding and stink. When cancer invades the muscles of tongue, it will cause rigid tongue, difficulty in swallowing, speech problems and increased discharge of saliva.
Signs and Symptoms of Advanced-stage Tongue Cancer
In advanced tongue cancer, tumor will invades organs on the other side of the cancer or mouth floor or even spread to lingual periosteum, osteone and bones of mandible. The tongue is rich of blood vessels and lymph nodes, so frequent compression of the muscle of tongue is especially easy to cause cancer cells to spread to lymph nodes of the neck. Most metastases are found in superior deep cervical lymphatic nodes. If the primary lesion spread to lymph nodes on the other side of the neck, then the metastases will be doubled. In advanced stage, tongue cancer may spread to lungs or other distant parts of the body.