Tongue cancer normally occurs in the squamous, or skin cells. Symptoms of tongue cancer either in the front or middle of your tongue makes it oral cancer - if they're at the base of your tongue it comes under the heading of throat or oropharyngeal cancer. When looking for tongue cancer symptoms, watch out for the following persistent signs:
- Red, pink, grey or white spots on tongue
- Sore spots on tongue
- Leukoplakia or erythroplakia on tongue
- Sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
- Mouth numbness
- Unexplained bleeding of tongue
- Pain in the ear (very rare)
- Changes in your voice
Red, Pink, Grey or White Spots on Tongue - These symptoms of tongue cancer start small and may look like canker sores, especially if they occur in other places in your mouth. Canker sores tend to go away in a week or two.
White spots on tongue might also indicate oral thrush or hairy tongue, but you'll be able to gently scrape these off yourself. Remember, persistency is one of the main factors for symptoms of tongue cancer, along with tongue pain.
Leukoplakia & Erythroplakia - These are products of uncontrolled cell growth, one of the very definitions of cancer. But figuring out if they are actual tongue cancer symptoms or just irritations from your dental work depends on a biopsy. They might also be pre-cancerous, so it's best to see your dentist about these swelling or thickening patches right away.
Pain, Numbness & Bleeding - If you're getting a burning sensation, it's possible you suffer from burning mouth syndrome or geographic tongue rather than cancer. Sharp tongue pains and persistent soreness are more dangerous. And persistent sore throat pain is one of the oropharyngeal tongue cancer symptoms.
Watch for easy bleeding should you happen to bite your tongue or if you merely touch a trouble spot. (But oral thrush patches might also bleed if you try to remove those.)
Tongue pain, swelling and numbness as symptoms of tongue cancer could indicate that the disease moved deeper into your nerve cells. And tongue swelling may be a symptom of other, non-oral cancers.