Treatment for tongue cancer depends on how big the tumor is and how far the cancer has spread. You might only need one treatment or you might need a combination of treatments.
Early mouth cancer that hasn’t spread can usually be treated with a small operation to remove the affected area. Larger tumors usually need to be removed with a surgery called a partial glossectomy, in which part of the tongue is removed.
If doctors remove a large piece of your tongue, you might undergo reconstruction surgery. In this surgery, your doctor will take a piece of skin or tissue from another part of your body and use it to rebuild your tongue. The goal of both the glossectomy and reconstruction surgery is to remove the cancer while damaging as little of your mouth as possible.
Glossectomy can lead to severe side effects, including changes in how you eat, breathe, talk, and swallow. Speech therapy can help you learn to adjust to these changes. In addition, talk therapy can help you cope.
If the cancer has spread to your lymph nodes, those will likely be removed with surgery.
If you have a large tumor in your tongue or the cancer has spread, you’ll probably need to have a combination of surgery to remove the tumor and radiation to ensure that all tumor cells are removed or killed. This can lead to side effects such as a dry mouth and taste changes.
Doctors may also recommend chemotherapy to treat your cancer, in combination with surgery and/or radiation.