A 25-year-old man from Greater Tainan had his tongue removed after it was discovered that the constant pain he suffered was not caused by ulcers as he had believed, but by cancer.
According to Tainan Municipal An-Nan Hospital ear, nose and throat doctor Chiu Yi-chiao (邱怡喬), the patient, surnamed Chou (周), did not smoke, drink alcohol or chew betel nuts, which led Chou to attribute the pain on the right side of his tongue to mouth ulcers when the symptoms began in May.
“Chou refused to seek medical care even after the pain exacerbated. When he eventually came to the hospital last month, the right side of his tongue had severely ulcerated and a tumor in his tongue tissue had already reached 5cm,” Chiu said.
A pathology report diagnosed Chou with stage four squamous cell carcinomas, the most common type of oral cancer, meaning he had to undergo a total glossectomy, Chiu said.
“Although the tongue can later be functionally reconstructed, the procedure is unable to fully restore the patient’s speech or taste,” he added.
Tongue cancers mostly originate in surface cells and nearly 90 percent of them are squamous cell carcinomas, Chiu said, which can manifest as ulcers, small hard or white patches that are hard to heal and which can sting or bleed while eating.
Chiu said tongue cancer is most prevalent among people aged between 40 and 60, with common risk factors being alcohol, cigarettes, betel nuts, overly hot foods, dental cavities, infection with human papillomavirus and exposure to radiation.
“It is extremely rare for someone as young as Chou to develop tongue cancer. There could be a genetic reason for this,” Chiu said.
Chiu urged people who have suffered from ulcers or pain on the tongue for longer than two weeks to seek immediate medical attention, as tongue cancer has a relatively high survival rate of 80 percent if the disease is detected in the early stages.
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