What You Should Know About Lip Cancer [Video]

  • Lip cancer is a subtype of oral cancer wherein malignant cells develop in the lips.
  • The signs and symptoms of lip cancer can be easily spotted and its causes can include lip sores, certain foods, and medications.
  • Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for lip cancer.

Among the types of cancer that develop in the head and neck area, lip cancer is one of those that can be successfully treated when detected early. The American Cancer Society shares that lip cancer has a five-year survival rate of 92 percent if it is diagnosed before it has spread to other areas of the body.

Being in a visible area, the signs and symptoms can be observed early on. But in some cases, symptoms do not show at all. That is why it is vital to know about its risk factors and its most common signs and symptoms. Also, being aware of its different causes can help doctors diagnose and evaluate lip cancer.

Here are the different things you might need to know about lip cancer.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of lip cancer can be easily spotted but they can also be mistaken for symptoms of other conditions. These symptoms can include:

  • A non-healing sore, lesion, or ulcer on the outside of the lips or the inner folds of the mouth
  • A lump or thickened area on some parts of the lips and the neck
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bloody, painful, and numb area of the lips
  • Red or white patches on the lips


There are several causes of lip sores or lip ulcers, the most common symptom of lip cancer. It can develop from eating certain foods, taking certain medication, or the habit of lip-biting. Furthermore, some conditions like cold sores, canker sores, and herpes may bring about lip ulcers that can develop at any given time. Lip sores can also be due to hand, foot, and mouth disease.  

Risk Factors

People are more at risk for lip cancer if they are:

  • Men in their golden years
  • Fair-skinned
  • Immunosuppressed (have a weak immune system)
  • Exposed to the sun often
  • Heavy alcohol drinkers
  • Smokers of cigarettes and cigars or tobacco chewers and pipe users


Upon seeing sores and lesions on your lips, a physician will visually examine it and may ask questions regarding how long since it has appeared, if it had worsened, and if you have done activities that may have caused it. During the examination, doctors can also inquire about your diet, medications you are taking, and different habits which might have triggered the sores and lesions to develop.

After a physical examination, your doctor can request a biopsy to confirm or rule out lip cancer. This procedure is carried out by an ENT (ear-nose-throat) doctor wherein local anesthesia is used. In advanced or complex cases, general anesthesia or sedation may be required. During and after the procedure, minimal pain can be felt which can last up to two days.

It is important to inform your doctor about the symptoms that might not be visible because early detection can help improve the success of the treatment. Treatment options can include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. While symptoms can also be connected to other conditions, it is still vital to inform doctors because early detection is the key to any health condition.


Source: Very Well Health

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