Initial Symptoms of Tongue Cancer

By Wendy Rose Gould

Tongue cancer is a serious form of cancer that can develop on any area of the tongue. It is referred to as "mouth" cancer when the cancer spot develops on the front part of your tongue (the part that you can move around). When the cancer spot is located at the base of your tongue near the back of your throat, it is considered "oropharyngeal" cancer. Both types will create similar symptoms early on.

White or Red Spot

Whether it is oropharyngeal tongue cancer or mouth tongue cancer, you may notice a small- to medium-sized red or white spot on your tongue. The back of your tongue is difficult to see, so if you feel discomfort or feel a growth, use a flashlight and mirror to get a better look. You may also have a sore in your mouth that will not heal, a sore spot on the tongue or a sore throat.


Slight to severe pain while chewing or swallowing food is a common symptom found early in the development of tongue cancer. While this pain is common for other ailments such as strep throat or a cold, it can be indicative of tongue cancer.

Unexplained Bleeding

Some people experience unexplained bleeding from the mouth when they have tongue cancer.

Bad Breath

Tongue cancer can create bad breath and bad tastes in your mouth. As a result, it produces an infection-like smell and taste. The smell is different from typical bad breath, so do not confuse the two.

Complications from Treatment of Tongue Cancer

Treatment for tongue cancer may compromise your ability to swallow, talk or eat solid foods. Therapies are available to help redevelop those skils. Discuss any potential side effects from treatments with your health care provider.

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