Three Treatment Options For Tongue Cancer

If you have been diagnosed with tongue cancer, you may be concerned about your next steps and possible cancer treatment options. Here are three possible treatment options for tongue cancer.

Surgical excision

It may be possible for your cancer to be surgically removed. Some dentists are able to do this, but it's likely that you will need to be referred to an oral surgeon for this procedure. The surgeon will use a scalpel to carefully cut away the entirety of your tongue tumor as well as a thin layer of healthy tissue around the tumor. The surgeon may use a microscope during the surgery to make sure that all of the cancer cells have been removed.

If the tumor is large, larger portions of your tongue may need to be removed. This procedure is known as a glossectomy. A partial glossectomy involves removing less than half of your tongue, while a total glossectomy involves removing more than half. This is a major procedure that can make it hard for you to talk, eat, or drink, so it will only be done if it is absolutely necessary.

If the cancer can be successfully removed through surgery, you may need no further treatment. You will need regular follow-up appointments with your dentist so that your dentist can examine your tongue for signs of recurrence. Since tongue cancer can develop in hard-to-see locations like underneath your tongue or the back of your tongue, it is very hard to examine your own tongue, so make sure you don't miss these appointments.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses radiation to damage and destroy cancer cells. Your dentist will need to send you to an oncologist, a cancer specialist, for this treatment.

There are different types of radiation therapy, but for tongue cancer, internal radiotherapy is generally used. This treatment involves surgically placing radioactive implants directly into your tongue, and if possible, the tumor itself. The benefit of this type of radiation therapy is that the dose is concentrated in the area near the cancer, meaning that there will be less radiation damage to healthy cells in other parts of your body.

While you're undergoing radiation therapy, you will need to make regular visits to your dentist. This is because radiation can cause a lot of problems inside your mouth. It can lead to inflammation and pain of your oral soft tissues, and it may also make your mouth feel very dry. Dry mouth is responsible for a phenomenon known as radiation caries, a type of tooth decay that is caused by radiation therapy.


If your tongue cancer is advanced, you may need to undergo chemotherapy as well as surgery and/or radiation therapy. This treatment will be given by an oncologist. Chemotherapy involves using drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs will be given intravenously.

The benefit of chemotherapy is that the drugs travel throughout your bloodstream, and are able to reach and kill cancer cells throughout your body. This is helpful if the cancer has spread from your tongue to other parts of your body.

Like radiation, chemotherapy has some unpleasant side effects inside your mouth. This means that you will need to see your dentist regularly while you're undergoing your treatment. A very common side effect is a sore, dry mouth. Since saliva plays a key role in keeping your teeth clean and free of decay, cavities can be a side effect of your dry mouth. Your dentist may recommend using artificial saliva to try to stave off cavities.

One or more of these three methods will be used to treat your tongue cancer. Make sure to see your dentist regularly during treatments that any side effects can be managed.