Oncology (General Cancer)/Tongue


QUESTION: Can I ask you another question about my husband. He has suffered from geographic tongue for a few years now. He had a biopsy done almost two years ago on the left lateral border which showed chronic glossitis consistent with geographic tongue. Recently has has even getting red areas with white borders under them on the side and kind of under his tongue. I assume this is also gt since it does change but I thought I would ask. If course now I am worried about cancer so does this look like any type if tongue cancer?

Red spot on the right side


Seems to be gone


Back about a week later


ANSWER: Geographic tongue is a condition that waxes and wanes, and seems to be something that can happen in many situations.  It's usually benign.  The lesions in your pictures seem to be typical of the problem, and if they come and go, that's normal.  If your husband smokes, I'd me more concerned about cancer.  If he doesn't, and nothing is growing in there, it's probably nothing.  It doesn't look like cancer to me.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: He does chew and has for a long time. He goes for a check up every six months and the dentist uses a velescope to check his mouth. These areas come and go so since try do that they can't be cancer right? Other than the red area with the white border there is no growth at all

For developing mouth cancer, chewing is more serious than smoking.  If he also drinks a fair amount of alcohol, his risk of mouth cancer is fifteen times the normal risk.  That being said, if he insists on chewing, the best thing is to continue to be closely monitored.  I don't think what you are seeing is cancer.  

Oncology (General Cancer)

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Donald Higby, M.D.


I can answer almost all questions related to the treatment and natural course of most kinds of cancer, especially cancers of prostate, colon, lung and breast.


I have been a practicing medical oncologist for 36 years, and have been chief of service at a major medical center for 25 years. I've also done research in cancer treatments.

American Society of Clinical Oncology

New England Journal of Medicine American Journal of Medicine Journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Hematology Transfusion Medicine

MD, Stanford University Internal Medicine residency, St. Louis University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO Medical Oncology Fellowship, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY

Awards and Honors
America's Best Physicians, last 14 years

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