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Home > Dental Conditions > Oral Cancer > Tongue Cancer Prognosis and Susceptibility
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Tongue Cancer Prognosis & Susceptibility

Tongue Cancer - Cancer of the tongue risk factors.

These are the facts of life, illness and survivability of tongue cancer, from the American Cancer Society (ACS): If you smoke or chew tobacco you may be susceptible to cancer of the tongue. Add more risk with chronic or heavy alcohol consumption. If you're a male, you smoke, and you drink alcohol - you're more than twice as likely to seek a tongue diagnosis as women who smoke and drink (though this gap decreases as more women start smoking).

The ACS estimates 28 thousand Americans get oral cancer each year. Eight out of 10 people with oral cancer use tobacco; and seven out of 10 drink alcohol heavily. Aging also increases your risk, for oral cancer and all cancers.

Other Tongue Cancer Risk Factors

How do we compound susceptibility and lower your tongue cancer prognosis? Add dental problems to the list above and you might find yourself in deep, oral cancer trouble, according to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library (MM). Irritation from dentures, dental bridges, tooth crowns and other work may make you more susceptible. The library also cites heredity, exposure to HPV (the human papillomavirus) and syphilis as possible triggers for cancer of the tongue.

People who start smoking and drinking again after tongue cancer treatment are extremely susceptible to getting some form of throat or mouth cancer again.

Cancer of the Tongue: Stages and Survivability

Doctors determine a tongue cancer prognosis by TMN, which stands for tumor, nodes and whether or not the cancer has metastasized. Doctors size the tumor and check regional lymph nodes and organs for the spread (metastasizing) of the disease. Then they assign numbers to each TMN component and tally up all of the factors to evaluate the stage of your tongue cancer.

Like most other cancers, survivability depends heavily on early detection. If your dentist finds early Stage I cancer of the tongue symptoms, your ability to survive more than five years is over 70 percent. If you don't seek tongue cancer treatment until Stage IV, survivability beyond five years drops to 37 percent. (ACS figures differ for other oral cancers.)

Improving Tongue Cancer Prognosis Through Early Tongue Diagnosis

Doctors divide cancer of the tongue into two categories - oral cancer, and oropharyngeal cancer - and both fall under the bigger umbrella of head and neck cancers. The two tongue categories are defined by location. If the tongue cancer tumor or lesion grows on the front or middle thirds of your tongue, it's labeled oral or mouth cancer. If the cancer grows on the back third of the tongue close to the throat, it classifies as throat or oropharyngeal cancer.

Cancer on tongue occurs most in the squamous (flat, scale-like skin) cells, then divide and multiply uncontrollably. The extra cells mass into a tumor or lesion and they become malignant when they invade other parts of your body.

You might discover tongue cancer symptoms yourself, or your dentist may find them during a regular exam or scheduled dental cleaning. The earlier one of you uncovers symptoms, the earlier you start treatment and the better your tongue cancer prognosis.

Your tongue diagnosis may involve:

  • Initial, visual examination by your dentist or doctor
  • Fiber optic scope examination incorporating a tiny camera mounted to a thin tube to look at the base of your tongue
  • Biopsy, some or all cells removed to test for tongue cancer
  • CT scan, or computed tomography of your mouth
  • Chest X-ray, to examine your lungs for cancer

Tongue Cancer Help

Oral cancer only represents two percent of all human cancers, according to the MM library. So chances are pretty good that a lesion or growth on your tongue might be oral thrush (yeast infection), leukoplakia or erythroplakia (which may be pre-cancerous), or even geographic tongue (red areas that migrate on the surface). However, it's always best to be sure; and if you haven't had a dental exam lately and notice something strange going on in your mouth, contact your dentist.

We can always help you find a dentist who specializes in tongue cancer or other oral cancer symptoms. Call us at 1-866-970-0441 and we'll connect you with someone in your area.

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