According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 40,000 Americans will get cancer of the oral cavity in 2015. The tongue is one of the most common locations for oral cancer to develop, so everyone should be aware of the signs of tongue cancer. Here are five signs to watch out for.
A patch on your tongue
The development of patches on the surface of your tongue is always cause for concern. These patches may be pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions, so if you notice them, you need to see your dentist for an evaluation right away.
You may notice white patches or spots on the surface of your tongue. These patches cannot be easily scraped away, which helps to distinguish them from other, less serious, lesions.
You may also notice red patches or spots on your tongue. These patches tend to have a velvety texture and are raised above the surface of your tongue. If you scrape the lesion, it will often bleed. Suspicious tongue patches can also be made up of a mixture of red and white areas.
An ulcer on your tongue
Most of the time, ulcers on the tongue are caused by minor injuries like accidentally biting your tongue while you're eating. You can also develop an ulcer on your tongue as a result of stress, hormonal changes, or even eating certain types of foods, such as chocolate. Since tongue ulcers usually have minor causes, it is easy to ignore them and hope they go away. However, these ulcers can sometimes be a sign of tongue cancer.
Telling the difference between a minor ulcer and the cancerous ulcer can be difficult. If you have an ulcer on your tongue that hasn't healed in two weeks, you need to see your dentist. Your dentist can take a biopsy of the tissue to determine if the ulcer is anything to worry about.
Numbness inside your mouth
Numbness inside your mouth is another possible sign of tongue cancer. This numbness may be confined to your tongue, or it may affect nearby tissues as well. Numbness may be a sign that a tumor within or near your tongue is pressing against a nerve. Numbness can also be a sign of less serious problems, such as food sensitivities, so you will need to see your dentist to find out what is causing your problem.
Unexplained tongue bleeding
Tongue bleeding can occur if you accidentally bite your tongue or if you bite a food that is too sharp, but if your tongue is bleeding for no identifiable reason, tongue cancer may be to blame. The source of the blood may be a cancerous lesion or sore on your tongue. If the sore is on the bottom side of your tongue, or on the side, you may not realize that it's there until it starts to bleed. These sores tend to bleed easily, so if you accidentally brush it with your toothbrush, or if food touches it, it may start to bleed.
Difficulty moving the tongue
If you notice that you are having trouble moving your tongue, tongue cancer may be the cause. This can happen if the cancer presses against the nerves that control your tongue. If you're having trouble controlling your tongue, you may have trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking. You may also notice that your tongue curves to one side and that you are not able to straighten it. If you notice these signs of nerve damage, don't ignore it.
If you notice one or more of these signs tongue cancer, make sure to see a dentist, like those at Dillon Family Dental PLLC, right away for an examination.