Signs and Symptoms of Tongue Base Cancer
The symptoms of soft palate cancer, like other oropharynx cancers, depend on where the tumour is and how big it is. In many cases, patients will have some difficulty with swallowing or feel something way back in their tongue but not be able to see anything. However, it is not uncommon for the first symptom of a cancer in the base of tongue to be a lump in the neck. In any case, tongue base cancer can present with a whole host of different symptoms, including:
Pain or difficulty with swallowing in the throat: This can occur because a tumour is in the way of swallowing, and so it becomes difficult or painful to swallow. Also, there can be ulceration and bleeding as the tumour grows, causing pain.
A lump in the neck: This will be a symptom of oropharyngeal cancer if it has spread to lymph nodes in the neck. This can be the first symptom that brings a patient to the doctor. If you have a neck mass, and your doctor is concerned that it represents cancer spread from somewhere else, one of the first places he or she will look is your oropharynx.
Ear pain (particularly on one side, with no other ear problems): Ear pain, also known as otalgia, happens because the nerves of the throat reach the brain through the same pathway as one of the nerves in the ear. Therefore, your brain might interpret a pain in the throat as coming from the ear. This is called referred pain. Consequently, unexplained ear pain that doesn’t go away should be evaluated by a specialist. It is important to understand that most causes of ear pain are due to simple problems such as middle ear infection or dysfunction of the Eustachian tube. TMJ pain due to a problem in the joint located in front of the ear may also present as otalgia.
Other symptoms might include:
Difficulty opening your mouth widely (trismus)
Feeling a lump in the throat
Bleeding from the mouth
A change in the way you speak
But don’t jump to any conclusions. You could have one or more of these symptoms but NOT have oropharyngeal cancer. There are several non-cancerous causes of the same symptoms. That’s why you need to see a specialist.