If your health care provider believes you may have tongue cancer or a form of oral cancer, you will need certain exams and tests to be sure. You should expect to be asked questions about your health history, symptoms, risk factors and family history of disease. Understanding your background will help your provider make a diagnosis.

Your provider will also give you a physical exam, including an exam of your tongue and mouth. You may have one or more of the following tests:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans use a series of X-ray images to photograph the inside of the body from different angles. CT scans are used to diagnose different conditions and help determine the right types of cancer treatment.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use computer-generated radio waves to photograph the inside of the body from multiple angles. MRIs help detect the size and location of tumors and determine a cancer diagnosis.

A biopsy removes tissue or cells from the tongue to be checked by a pathologist under a microscope. Results from a biopsy help determine if cells are cancerous. Usually, a tongue biopsy is done with local anesthesia by an oral cancer radiologist. Local anesthesia uses medicine to numb the area of the mouth where a needle will be inserted. General anesthesia may be needed for some procedures, and a biopsy may be performed with imaging guidance. Ask your provider about your specific type of biopsy to learn more.

Patients will be contacted after a biopsy by a Markey team member to review results. Further management will be recommended at that time.

When you are diagnosed with tongue cancer, it is common to feel a sense of urgency around starting treatment. However, in most cases, there is time to do the needed research to ensure that your diagnosis is correct. That may include getting a second opinion.

Our team of experts works together to diagnose, treat and prevent tongue cancer, with a focus on individualized patient care.

Markey is among the best cancer centers in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report, when it comes to advanced treatment options, survival rates and experienced providers. As the first and only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Kentucky, Markey can serve many patients each year with rare and common cancers, including tongue cancer.

Our specialized team is happy to work with your doctors and communicate to ensure confidence in your diagnosis.

Should I get a second opinion?

A second opinion can help to ensure that you will be getting the latest and most effective therapy for treating tongue cancer. The following are common reasons for seeking a second opinion after your initial diagnosis:

  • A dedicated team specialized in your cancer type may not be available in your area.
  • There may be uncertainty around the stage of tongue cancer.
  • You are having difficulty understanding your diagnosis.
  • Your health insurance requires a second opinion before continuing toward treatment.
  • You may want to learn more about treatment options, including clinical trials and advanced technologies only available at an advanced center like Markey.

Questions to ask when getting a second opinion

After receiving a cancer diagnosis, you may have a lot on your mind. Here a few questions to keep in mind for your doctor when seeking a second opinion:

  • Are there additional tests I should take before moving forward with treatment?
  • Do you recommend any treatments at this time?
  • How long are treatment recovery periods?
  • Is there a chance that my medical problem could have a different diagnosis?
  • What do you expect to happen if I wait or don't have the treatment?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?

For more information, visit these trusted national sources for a variety of additional educational tools and resources:

NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center - A Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Markey Cancer Center is designated by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center – a distinction that recognizes our commitment to accelerating precision cancer research and care to patients. We are the first and only NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Center in Kentucky, and one of 57 in the nation.