A prognosis is a prediction of the outcome of one’s disease. How likely is survival? Will the cancer come back? These are the big questions on most people’s minds after receiving a diagnosis of tongue cancer. In general, there are several characteristics of the tumour that can inform a patient about their chances of being cured.

Factors That Affect Prognosis


This is the most important factor that affects a patient’s chance of being cured.


The location of the tumour in the oral cavity can affect the surgeon’s ability to resect the tumour with adequate margins of healthy tissue around it.

Type and Grade

Both the type and grade of the tumour determine the amount of treatment necessary and the ultimate prognosis.

Spread to Lymph Nodes

This helps determine stage, but even without other factors, spread to lymph nodes in the neck decrease the chance of cure, especially if there is evidence of growth of cancer outside of the lymph node.

Tumour Margins

The ability to completely remove the tumour with a margin of normal tissue around it can be a very important factor in a patient’s prognosis.

Spread into Local Structures

Spread into large nerves, skin, and bone has been shown to indicate a worse prognosis.

While each of these factors contributes to one’s outcome, patients should have a discussion with their doctor to determine their overall prognosis. Giving a percentage of survival is challenging because cancer research often looks at multiple types of cancer and may include a large range of patients who underwent a variety of treatments.