What is lip cancer?
Lip cancer is abnormal cell growth that is out of control and forms lesions or tumors on the lips. Lip cancer and other kinds of oral cancers are types of head and neck cancers. Lip cancer is highly curable when diagnosed early.
How common is lip cancer?
Lip cancer is the most common type of oral cancers. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of lip cancer?
The common symptoms of lip cancer are:
- A sore, lesion, blister, ulcer, or lump on the mouth that does not go away
- A red or white patch on the lip
- Bleeding or pain on the lips
- Swelling of the jaw
Lip cancer may not have any symptoms and are sometimes first noticed by a dentist during a regular dental exam. If you have a sore or lump on your lips, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have lip cancer. Discuss your symptoms with your dentist or doctor.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes lip cancer?
According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, most cases of oral cancer are linked to tobacco use and heavy alcohol use.
Sun exposure is also a major risk factor, especially for people who work outdoors since they are more likely to have prolonged sun exposure.
What increases my risk for lip cancer?
There are many risk factors for lip cancer, such as:
- Smoking or using tobacco products (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or chewing tobacco)
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Exposure to direct sunlight (both natural and artificial), including the use of tanning beds, over long periods
- Having a fair complexion or light-colored skin
- Being male
- Infection with human papillomavirus (hpv), a sexually transmitted virus
- Being older than 40 years of age
The majority of oral cancers are linked to tobacco use. The risk is even higher for people who use both tobacco and drink alcohol, compared with those who use only one of the two.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is lip cancer diagnosed?
If you have signs or symptoms of lip cancer, you should see your doctor. They will perform a physical exam of your lips and other parts of your mouth to search for abnormal areas and try to identify possible causes.
Your doctor will use a gloved finger to feel inside your lips and use mirrors and lights to examine the inside of your mouth. They may also feel your neck for swollen lymph nodes.
Your doctor will also ask you about your:
- Health history
- Smoking and alcohol history
- Past illnesses
- Medical and dental treatments
- Family history of disease
- Any medications you’re taking
If lip cancer is suspected, a biopsy can confirm the diagnosis. During this procedure, a small sample of the abnormal area is taken and reviewed in a pathology laboratory under a microscope. If your doctor confirms that you have lip cancer, they may then perform a number of other tests to determine how far the cancer has progressed, or if it has spread to other parts of the body.
Tests may include:
Computed tomography (CT) scan
- Positron emission tomography (pet) scan
- Chest x-ray
- Complete blood count (cbc)
- Endoscopy (a thin instrument inserted through an incision that allows a physician to view inside the body)
How is lip cancer treated?
Surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy are just some of the treatments available for lip cancer. Other possible options include targeted therapy and investigative treatments, such as immunotherapy and gene therapy.
As with other cancers, lip cancer treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, how far it has progressed (including the size of the tumor), and your general health.
If the tumor is small, surgery is typically performed to remove it. This involves removal of all tissue involved with the cancer, plus reconstruction of the lip (cosmetically and functionally).
If the tumor is larger or at a later stage, radiation and chemotherapy may be used to shrink the tumor before or after surgery to reduce the risk of recurrence. Chemotherapy treatments deliver drugs throughout the body and reduce the risk of the cancer spreading or returning.
For those who smoke, quitting smoking before treatment can improve treatment outcomes.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage lip cancer?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you reduce your risk of lip cancer:
Lip cancers can be prevented by avoiding the use of all types of tobacco, avoiding excessive alcohol intake, and limiting exposure to both natural and artificial sunlight, particularly the use of tanning beds.
Since many lip cancers are first discovered by dentists, it’s important to make regular dental appointments with a licensed professional, especially if you’re at an increased risk for lip cancers.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Lip Cancers. https://www.healthline.com/health/lip-cancers#overview1. Accessed November 7, 2017.
Lip Cancer. https://med.uth.edu/orl/newsletter/lip-cancer/. Accessed November 7, 2017.
Review Date: November 7, 2017 | Last Modified: November 7, 2017