Prognosis for Tongue Cancer


Tongue cancer is a rare form of malignancy affecting one or more areas of the tongue. Most cases occur in older adults, and risk factors include smoking, inhaling incense or other smoke, and chewing tobacco. The prognosis of the disease varies widely based on a number of factors.


The size of the tumor often affects the survival rates of tongue cancer patients. Very small tumors are most often cut away and result in a much higher survival rate than one would see with larger tumors. Over half (56%) of those diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, including tongue cancer, live at least five years past diagnosis. 41% have a ten year survival rate.


Metastasis is when cancer in one area of the body spreads to surrounding areas and beyond. Cancer cells can often travel through the bloodstream and affect various organs. In tongue cancer, the disease usually first spreads into the lymph nodes of the neck. Survival for those whose cancer has spread is much lower than those whose cancer is confined to one area. In these cases, removing the tumor is not enough. Chemotherapy and/or radiation may be needed.


The probability of survival decreases dramatically for those who continue to engage in risky behavior. Risk factors for tongue cancer include smoking, drinking, UV light exposure, and burning incense. Those who continue doing these things have a higher chance of death within five years, or a much higher chance of the cancer returning within five years once it is removed.

Support System

For those who have cancer, having a support system is of the utmost importance. Having someone listen not only relieves stress and anxiety, but it also increases the survival rate of cancer patients. Patients with no circle of supportive friends, family, spiritual faith, or counseling are more than twice as likely to die.

Healthy Habits

Avoiding bad behavior is a start in preventing, defeating, and squelching a reoccurrence of cancer. But adopting new healthy habits can actually prevent cancer from ever coming back, regardless of survival statistics. This includes eating organic foods, exercising, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough rest.

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