The tongue is part of the oral cavity with an additional portion called the base of tongue in the back of the throat. Tongue cancers often present as a lump or ulcer, and are more common on the side wall of the tongue. These lumps may be painful or bleed on occasion, and may be associated with neck lumps. Tongue cancers are associated with excessive alcohol intake and smoking, and risk increases with age although there is still a significant number of tongue cancer sufferers that are young with no drinking or smoking history.
Cancers in the base of tongue behave differently and are often associated with the HPV virus. These are tumours usually present with a neck lump as the presenting complaint.
Other symptoms may include:
- Pain in the throat or neck
- Lump in the throat
- Trouble swallowing or breathing
- Hoarse voice that does not improve with time
- Ulcer on the tongue or mouth that does not heal with time
A complete examination including a nasendoscopy – a small camera placed through the nose to examine the throat and larynx (voice box) is needed to diagnose a throat cancer. Full investigations such as ultrasound, CT & MRI scans and a needle biopsy will also help to confirm your diagnosis.