5 Possible Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

19 June, 2020
While the symptoms of tongue cancer can be attributed to other less serious problems, it's important to see a doctor if you see several of them in order to rule out bigger issues.

Tongue cancer, technically known as oral or oropharyngeal cancer, is one of the least common kinds of cancer. In most cases, people with tongue cancer are lifelong smokers or drinkers.

The statistics indicate that it’s more common among men more than women, and lately, the number of people with oral or oropharyngeal cancer has risen.

As with any disease, certain symptoms appear that are indications of what is going on. If you suspect you may be sick, pay attention to the following 5 symptoms of tongue cancer.

However, please note that these symptoms are the most general ones and are not 100% indicative that you have cancer.

If you have any health issues, remember that you should see your doctor to get checked out and to get properly diagnosed.

Risk factors

Symptoms of tongue cancer

Just like how people with a family history of diabetes are more likely to have diabetes some time in their life, there are also factors, whether lifestyle or diet-related, that can make you more likely to get tongue cancer.

Some of them are:

Smoking and alcoholism

This combination makes you more likely to get tongue cancer as well as other diseases like lung cancer, cirrhosis, and stomach cancer.

Active smokers are more likely to grow cancerous cells in the oral area. This is also true for people who regularly drink alcohol.


Eating a diet low in fruit and vegetables weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to frequent health problems.

Human papillomavirus (HPV)

People with HPV are more likely to get tongue cancer because the virus is directly linked to its appearance and growth.

Early symptoms of tongue cancer

1. Tongue ulcers

Painful ulcers or sores that do not respond well to medication are one of the first symptoms of tongue cancer.

Normally, ulcers are painful and very uncomfortable. However, the difference here is that these are much more sensitive and appear very frequently.

It’s important not to confuse them with normal ulcers or oral herpes, so pay attention to the level and duration of the pain.

2. Pain


The pain caused by tongue cancer is not limited to just the tongue. It may also extend throughout the mouth and throat.

  • You may feel it during everyday activities like drinking liquids or chewing food.
  • Depending on the pain while swallowing or chewing, this may be an indication of cancer, though it may also be attributed to throat infections, tonsilitis, or an allergy.

Pay close attention to the intensity and duration of the pain.

If it lasts longer than a week and you see other symptoms like spots on your tongue, it’s best to get examined by a doctor and properly diagnosed.

Read this article too:

Health-Related Signals from Your Tongue

3. Spots on your tongue

Spots are another big indication that you may have tongue cancer.

They are usually white (leukoplakia) or red (erythroplakia) and last longer than two weeks. If this is you, you should see a doctor to find out what’s going on.

If your doctor decides it’s necessary, she will order a biopsy to analyze the spots.

4. Unpleasant odor


A bad odor in your mouth in addition to the above symptoms is very common. It goes away when you brush your teeth and tongue, but it comes back quickly and may be accompanied by a bloody taste in your mouth.

5. Bleeding tongue

Many people confuse bleeding on the tongue with bleeding gums or ulcers. That’s why finding out where the bleeding is coming from is important.

  • Clean your tongue after eating with a cotton ball to figure out where the blood is coming from.
  • See a doctor if you constantly taste blood in your mouth.

People with mouth cancer may or may not have symptoms. It’s also important to note that the above symptoms are not exclusive to this type of cancer. They can also be indicative of other illnesses. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, The American Society of Clinical Oncology recommends that you see your dentist for an exam.