Treatment results and prognostic factors for 80 patients with oral tongue cancer admitted to Istanbul University Oncology Institute between 1987 and 2000 were retrospectively analysed. The patients were treated by surgery and postoperative or curative radiotherapy. Median age was 55 (22-93) out of which 41 patients (51%) were male and 39 (49%) were female. One patient (1%) had stage I disease, 28 patients (36%) stage II, 18 patients (23%) stage III and 32 patients (40%) stage IVA disease. Nineteen patients (24%) were medically inoperable or refused surgical treatment, so were treated with curative radiotherapy to a total dose of 70 Gy (group A). The remaining 61 patients (76%) were treated with surgery and postoperative external beam radiotherapy (group B). The median follow-up time was 44 months. The 5-year overall and loco-regional disease-free survival rates were 42% and 46%, respectively. The 5-year overall survival rates were 16% in group A and 49% in group B (P = 0.0002). The 5-year disease-specific survival rate was 23% in group A while in group B it was 49%; the difference was statistically significant (P = 0.02). Combined treatment improves overall and disease-free survival in patients with stage 11, 111 and IVA oral tongue cancer. In patients who are not candidates for surgery, the effect of radiotherapy may be increased with the use of brachytherapy.