How to Treat Tongue Cancer

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Tongue cancer is diagnosed when a malignant tumor forms in or on the tongue, according to the University of Michigan. Symptoms of this cancer include white or red patches on the tongue, pain or difficulty chewing and swallowing, voice changes, ear pain, mouth pain or numbness, unusual bleeding, and a persistent sore throat. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly 11,000 people will be diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2009. One in five will die of the disease. Early detection is essential to survival, as treatment of tongue cancer is more effective when started before the cancer spreads.

Early detection of tongue cancer is essential to survival.
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Step 1

Visit your doctor if you have any symptoms of tongue cancer. When detected early, treatment is easier and your prognosis will be better.

Visit your doctor if you have any symptoms of tongue cancer.
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Step 2

Treat your tongue cancer using laser cautery if the tumor is small and does not penetrate into underlying muscle. Laser cautery is generally performed as an outpatient procedure, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Treat your tongue cancer using laser cautery.
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Step 3

Have the tumor and any nearby lymph nodes removed surgically if your tumor is large or your doctor believes your cancer may have spread. Sometimes, numerous lymph nodes and all or part of the tongue may need to be removed.

Have the tumor and nearby lymph nodes removed surgically if it is a large tumor.
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Step 4

Undergo radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells following surgery. Radiation therapy uses radioactive isotopes, high-energy X-rays, or electron beams to target cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding tissue and glands.

Radiation therapy will help kill any remaining cancer cells following surgery.
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Step 5

Agree to chemotherapy if your tongue cancer has spread to your lymph system or has metastasized to other organs. Chemotherapy involves the use of medications administered orally or intravenously to kill cancer cells throughout the body.

Agree to chemotherapy if your tongue cancer has spread to your lymph system.
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Step 6

Speak with a plastic surgeon about reconstructive surgery. In addition to restoring some or all oral function, reconstructive surgery can improve your facial appearance following treatment for tongue cancer.

Speak with a plastic surgeon about reconstructive surgery.
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Step 7

Attend rehabilitative therapy to improve your ability to swallow and speak. The Mayo Clinic states that occupational therapy and physical therapy can help you regain abilities lost due to the cancer or its treatment.

Attend rehabilitative therapy to improve your ability to speak and swallow.
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Step 8

Get fitted for an oral prosthesis to assist with eating and talking, if necessary. Your oncologist or speech therapist can refer you to a prosthodontist who will fit you for the device.

Get fitted for an oral prosthesis.
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Step 9

Remember to eat nutritiously both during and after your tongue cancer treatment. Eating well ensures you take in an adequate amount of protein and calories to prevent weight loss and loss of strength. Unless you are using a feeding tube, or have received contradictory instructions from your doctor, you should be able to handle soft, moist foods soon after treatment.

You should be able to handle soft and moist foods soon after treatment.
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Step 10

Avoid eating crunchy, sharp foods or items that are spicy or acidic until your tongue is completely healed. Alcohol and sweets also should be avoided as they may irritate the mouth, warns the National Cancer Institute.

Avoid things that irritate the mouth like alcohol and sweets.
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Step 11

Follow up with your doctors as scheduled, even if your cancer appears to be completely healed. Even with the best treatment, cancer cells may remain in the body. Inspect your mouth monthly and report to your doctor any changes in appearance, texture or sensation immediately.

Follow up with your doctors as scheduled.
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