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Doctor examining patient for tongue cancer treatment

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Head and Neck Cancer Program proudly offers treatment for cancer of the tongue.

What is tongue cancer ?


Tongue cancer is a type of oral cancer. There are numerous types of tongue cancer, the most common being squamous cell carcinoma. This type of tongue cancer develops in the squamous cells located on the tongue’s surface.

Tongue cancer symptoms

The two most common symptoms of tongue cancer include tongue pain and tongue sores. Other signs of tongue cancer include:

  • Unexplained tongue bleeding
  • A lump on the tongue
  • Throat or jaw pain, which may worsen when swallowing
  • Mouth numbness
  • A feeling of having something caught in the throat
  • Tongue or jaw stiffness
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing

It should be noted that early-stage tongue cancer sometimes does not produce any noticeable symptoms. If you observe any cancer of the tongue symptoms, it’s important to promptly consult with a trained medical provider, since early diagnosis and treatment can improve outcomes and lead to a better quality of life.

Tongue cancer causes and risk factors

Researchers are still working to identify what causes tongue cancer. Although the exact causes of tongue cancer remain unknown, studies suggest that the following risk factors may increase a person’s chances of developing cancer on their tongue:

  • Using tobacco (this includes smoking and chewing tobacco)
  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Chewing betel
  • Eating a diet high in red meat or processed foods, and low in fruit and vegetables
  • Having a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Having a personal history of cancer (especially squamous cell cancer)
  • Having a family history of tongue cancer or another type of oral cancer
  • Being over the age of 50
  • Being a man
  • Having poor oral hygiene
  • Being exposed to certain chemicals, such as asbestos, formaldehyde and sulfuric acid

Tongue cancer diagnosis

To diagnose tongue cancer, a physician will likely ask the patient about their personal and family medical histories and examine their tongue, mouth and lymph nodes. If the physician observes any tongue cancer signs, they may order additional testing, such as a biopsy, a computed tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

Tongue cancer treatment

Tongue cancer treatment often involves surgery to remove cancerous portions of the tongue (glossectomy). Many patients also undergo radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to destroy any remaining tongue cancer cells.

Tongue cancer survival rate

The survival rate for tongue cancer will vary depending on how far the malignancy has spread:

  • If the tongue cancer is localized (meaning that it has not spread beyond the tongue), the five-year relative survival rate is approximately 83%.
  • If the tongue cancer is regional (meaning that it has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes), the five-year relative survival rate is approximately 69%.
  • If the tongue cancer is distant (meaning that it has spread to distant areas of the body), the five-year relative survival rate is approximately 41%.

Moffitt’s approach to tongue cancer treatment

You can feel confident turning to Moffitt Cancer Center—the only Florida-based National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center—to diagnose and treat tongue cancer. Our renowned Head and Neck Cancer Program features a multispecialty team that includes physicians, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and various other professionals, all of whom work together to provide patients with highly specialized care and individualized treatment.

To schedule an appointment at Moffitt Cancer Center, call us at 1-888-663-3488 or fill out our new patient registration form online. When you do, you can expect to be connected to a cancer expert as soon as possible. After a cancer diagnosis, every day counts, and we’ve disrupted the traditional patient care model so that we can start treatment as soon as possible and help ensure the best possible outcomes and quality of life.


American Cancer Society: Survival Rates for Oral Cavity and Oropharyngeal Cancer
Medical News Today: What are the Early Signs of Tongue Cancer?

Support the Future of Head and Neck Oncology Research and Treatment

When you support Moffitt Cancer Center, you help make breakthrough head and neck research and innovative treatments possible. Give now to support the Head and Neck Oncology Program. For more information, call toll-free 1-800-456-3434, ext. 1403.