​Tongue Cancer


Tongue cancer is a form of cancer that begins in the cells of the tongue. Tongue cancer can occur in the mouth (oral tongue cancer) and in the throat, at the base of the tongue (hypopharyngeal tongue cancer).

The symptoms of tongue cancer are usually similar to those you may experience during a cold; perpetual sore throat that is not cured by medication. At times you may also feel pain in the ear, but this is in very rare cases.

Upon examining your tongue in the mirror, you may be able to notice patches having either a red or white colour on the tongue. At times you may experience the formation of an ulcer or lump on the tongue which does not go away with time.

Your tongue will start to feel numb and you will experience pain while chewing and swallowing.

You will feel the pain extending to the jaw along with the tongue. As the cancer progresses, you may witness bleeding from the tongue that is caused by unexplainable reasons.

If you notice discoloured patches on your tongue that are causing pain or growing into lumps, consult a doctor working with the Oncology Service Line at the Aga Khan University Hospital.  You need to take action immediately if there is bleeding from your tongue that is not caused by any injuries or events of the sort. A perpetual sore throat or numbness in the mouth are also alarming and reasons to compel you to make an appointment with a doctor. 

Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

To diagnose the probability of lip cancer, your doctor will begin by asking about your symptoms and the incidence of cancer in your family. You will then undergo a physical examination where the doctor will examine your affected area, particularly the tongue, for swelling and soreness and possible causes of the inflammation. He will also examine the inside of your mouth using a mirror and lights, and feel for any swollen lymph nodes around the neck. 

If ample evidence points towards cancer, you will be asked to have a biopsy for confirmation.

You will be given the option to choose from either of the treatments to counter the cancer: surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.

Surgery is the most common choice amongst patients, in case the cancer has not spread from the oral cavity. However, if the tumour is large enough then you will need to undergo glossectomy, which will include removal of part or whole of the tongue to eliminate the cancerous growth. This is usually followed by a reconstructive surgery to replace the part of the tongue removed.

If the cancer has progressed to affect the lymph nodes, the cancerous nodes are also surgically removed, alongside surrounding healthy tissue. In case the cancer cells have spread, you can opt for radiation therapy. This treatment employs the use of high energy rays or particles that kill the cancer cells.

You can also choose chemotherapy as a treatment for the cancer. This treatment employs the introduction of anti-cancer drugs either intravenously or orally. Chemotherapy is effective especially if the body has undergone metastasis.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​



​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.