Tongue cancer is a common and serious type of mouth cancer (oral cancer). Tongue cancer usually begins in the squamous cells that cover the surface of the tongue. When cancer forms in the front two-thirds of the tongue, it's classified as a type of oral cancer. Cancer that develops in the back third of the tongue is considered a form of throat (oropharyngeal) cancer.

When identified early, tongue cancer is highly curable. Oral cancers are about twice as common in men as in women. Tobacco, heavy alcohol use and exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV) increase the risk of oral cancers.

  • Expertise and teamwork. Your care will be directed by ear, nose and throat (ENT) experts specializing in head and neck cancers who coordinate your multispecialty team. Team members may include experts in radiation oncology, medical oncology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation therapies, and other specialties as needed.
  • Latest treatments, including minimally invasive techniques. At Mayo Clinic, your doctors use the latest technology, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy, to treat your tongue cancer. Mayo surgeons have developed a robotic surgical approach to tumor removal that offers better access to tongue cancers, with fewer adverse side effects and better quality of life compared with standard surgical approaches. Mayo Clinic is one of the few medical centers in the United States with extensive experience in using transoral robotic surgery, when appropriate, to treat tongue cancer.
  • Comprehensive cancer center. Mayo Clinic Cancer Center meets strict standards for a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, recognizing scientific excellence and a multispecialty approach focused on cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., are ranked among the Best Hospitals for cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla, is ranked high performing for cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Mayo Clinic also ranks among the Best Children's Hospitals for cancer.

At Mayo Clinic, we assemble a team of specialists who take the time to listen and thoroughly understand your health issues and concerns. We tailor the care you receive to your personal health care needs. You can trust our specialists to collaborate and offer you the best possible outcomes, safety and service.

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical institution that reinvests all earnings into improving medical practice, research and education. We're constantly involved in innovation and medical research, finding solutions to improve your care and quality of life. Your doctor or someone on your medical team is likely involved in research related to your condition.

Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care — and trusted answers — like they've never experienced.

Why Choose Mayo Clinic

What Sets Mayo Clinic Apart

Tongue cancer treatment at Mayo Clinic depends on your type and stage of cancer. Your team considers your needs to recommend the most appropriate treatment plan that will allow you to maintain as much speech and swallowing function as possible, and may include any combination of the following.

  • Surgery. Whenever possible, Mayo surgeons use transoral robotic surgery, a minimally invasive technique to precisely remove tongue cancer, greatly reducing injury to surrounding healthy tissue and shortening recovery time compared with traditional surgery.
  • Radiation therapy. At Mayo Clinic, you have access to the latest radiation technology, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy and image-guided radiation therapy.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy may be offered, depending on cancer size, whether it has spread to lymph nodes or if it has invaded other adjacent organs.
  • Targeted drug therapies. Mayo Clinic experts may use targeted drug therapies, such as monoclonal antibodies, which can interrupt the spread and growth of specific tongue cancer cells.
  • Reconstructive surgery When reconstructive surgery is necessary, experienced Mayo Clinic plastic and reconstructive surgeons, head and neck surgeons, and other specialists work together to restore physical appearance and function to the tongue and surrounding organs.
  • Rehabilitation. If you have extensive surgery or radiation therapy, experienced Mayo specialists in dietetics, speech, swallowing, and physical and occupational therapy help you regain speech and swallowing function.

Read more about mouth cancer treatment.

Mayo Clinic works with hundreds of insurance companies and is an in-network provider for millions of people. In most cases, Mayo Clinic doesn't require a physician referral. Some insurers require referrals or may have additional requirements for certain medical care. All appointments are prioritized on the basis of medical need.

At Mayo Clinic in Arizona, specialists in ear, nose and throat (ENT), radiation oncology, medical oncology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation therapies, and other areas as needed, develop a comprehensive treatment plan for you.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 800-446-2279 (toll-free) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Florida, specialists in ear, nose and throat (ENT), radiation oncology, medical oncology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation therapies, and other areas as needed, develop a comprehensive treatment plan for you.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 904-953-0853 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

At Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, specialists in ear, nose and throat (ENT), radiation oncology, medical oncology, oral and jaw and face (maxillofacial) surgery, plastic and reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation therapies, and other areas as needed, develop a comprehensive treatment plan for you.

If you want to stop smoking or chewing tobacco, you can receive help through the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center in Minnesota.

For appointments or more information, call the Central Appointment Office at 507-538-3270 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday or complete an online appointment request form.

See information on patient services at the three Mayo Clinic locations, including transportation options and lodging.

Mayo Clinic's Department of Otorhinolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery is dedicated to developing new treatment options for people with tongue cancer. Mayo's scientists and researchers collaborate to continually improve care. Areas of research include:

  • Improving and adapting existing robotic surgery systems for use on tumors of the tongue
  • Investigating tumor growth factors for oral cancer
  • Evaluating new methods of use for chemotherapy
  • Evaluating new radiation therapy regimens
  • Investigating the relationship of human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral cancers
  • Researching potential gene therapies

Publications

See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on tongue cancer on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

Jun. 27, 2013