Tongue Cancer Surgery

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Surgery is often used when the cancerous tumor is spread into the distant organs. It deals with the surgical removal of the tumor and the tissues surrounding the primary site of the cancer. Although surgery is the fastest method to purge the cancerous cells, it is significant for the patient to seek the outlook from different members of the multidisciplinary team before planning for a particular treatment. Other available treatment methods are also equally effective in dealing with cancer; still surgery can contribute to avoid recurrence. With all types of cancers, surgery helps to remove the cancer cells from the root and in the same way tongue cancer surgery also eliminates the cancerous tumor wholly.

What is tongue cancer surgery?

Tongue Cancer Surgery During tongue cancer surgery, the oncologist performs an operation to eliminate the cancerous cells from the site; they also remove some of the healthy tissues adjoining it (referred as margin). An oncologist is a professional who specializes in cancer surgery. The objective of surgery is to eliminate the tumor completely and leave negative margins (It means that even the traces of cancer are removed from the healthy tissues). Most of the times surgery is followed either by chemotherapy or by radiation therapy. Depending on the site, grade, stage and pathology of the tongue cancer, some patients may require additional treatment, since one operation to eliminate the cancer is not enough to restore the function and appearance of the tissues affected due to the disease.

Using micrographic surgery is most common to treat the skin cancer; it can be occasionally used to treat the tumors developed in the oral cavity (tongue cancer). This technique helps to reduce the amount of normal tissues removal. It involves removing the visible tumor along with the tiny fragments at the margin of the tumor. Each and every tiny fragment is scrutinized under a microscope until the cancer is removed completely.

Options of Surgical procedures

Tongue cancer surgery can be performed in different ways depending upon the site and extent of cancer spread. The most common forms of surgical procedures for tongue or oral cancer involve:

Surgery of primary tumor

The cancerous tumor along with some normal tissues in the surrounding area is removed to reduce the possibility of cancer recurrence. The tumor can be eliminated through the mouth or by making an incision in the neck. This depends on the location of the tumor.


This type of surgery is used to remove the hard palate (the bony roof in the oral cavity) or some part of the tongue. In order to fill the gap occurred due to this surgery, flaps of soft tissues are placed. They can be with or without bone.


When the tumor gets spread into the jawbone or starts developing into the bone, then a small piece of jawbone or the entire jawbone is removed. If the evidences show that tumor is destructing the adjoining bone as well then the entire bone can be eliminated.


This term refers to the partial or complete removal of tongue. This type of tongue cancer surgery is adopted when the cancer is present only in the tongue area.


If the tumor is enough large to be remove or is blocking the throat passage, an incision is made in the neck and a tracheostomy tube is sited through which the patient can breathe. This procedure can be permanent or temporary.

Gastrostomy tube

If the person feels difficulty in swallowing, gastrostomy tube (a feeding device is sited through the skin as well as muscles of the stomach directly into the abdomen. If the difficulty in swallowing is on temporary basis, a nasogastric (NG) tube is used. These methods are useful to maintain the nutrition and swallowing activities of the patient.


This involves partial or complete removal of larynx (voicebox). It is rarely performed when the cancer gets spread into the oropharynx or other organs in the mouth cavity.

Neck dissection

When the cancer cells get spread into the lymph nodes of the neck, it may become essential to remove some or the entire lymph nodes in the neck.


If major part of the tongue is removed during the treatment, performing reconstructive surgery becomes essential. It helps the patient to speak and swallow again with ease. This surgery helps to get the original voice and easy movement of the tongue. Reconstructive surgery is performed to get back to the previous lifestyle.

Selection of tongue cancer surgery may vary for each patient, since it depends on the location, extent and spread of the tumor.

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