What is lip cancer?

Cancer of the lip is a type of oral cancer. Sun, alcohol, tobacco, the human papilloma virus (HPV), male gender, and age over 40 are common risk factors for developing lip and other types of oral cancer. Of the approximately 26,000 new oral cancers that are estimated to occur yearly in the United States, 10% to 15% are lip cancer (Source: ACS).

Early lip cancers may have no symptoms. When symptoms are present, the most common finding is a sore on the lip that will not heal. Most lip cancers develop on the lower lip and are squamous cell cancers, which are cancers caused by changes and abnormal growth of the flat, disc-like cells that line and cover the lip.

When diagnosed early, lip cancer has an excellent prognosis and can potentially be cured by either surgery or radiation therapy. Later stages may also be treated with surgery or radiation or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy and targeted therapies may also be used, particularly for more advanced disease.

Emergency treatment is rarely needed for lip cancer, unless the cancer has spread and is interfering with the function of a vital organ. During chemotherapy, however, the white blood cell count can fall. Since white blood cells fight off infection, this can increase your risk of getting an infection and having it become serious. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), excessive bleeding, change in level of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, or lethargy.

Seek prompt medical care if you are having difficulty eating or drinking; have a sore that does not heal, produces pus, or bleeds easily; have a lump on your lip, in your mouth, or on your neck; have a thickened or discolored area on the lip; or if you have any other symptoms that concern you.


What are the symptoms of lip cancer?

The most common symptom of lip cancer is a sore on the lip that does not heal. Other symptoms, such as lumps or discolored areas, can occur on the lips. Lip cancer that has spread can cause symptoms in the mouth, neck and other areas of the body.

Common symptoms of lip cancer

Lip cancer symptoms commonly involve the lip, but may involve other areas as they spread. Commo... Read more about lip cancersymptoms


What causes lip cancer?

The specific cause of lip cancer is unknown, but several factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, are associated with its development.

Squamous cells cover the lip, and are the most likely cells to develop into lip cancer, although lip cancer can also be caused by other types of cells found in the area. On rare occasions, cells from other parts of the body will travel to the lip.... Read more about lip cancercauses


How is lip cancer treated?

Early lip cancers may be treated by surgical removal of the cancer or with radiation therapy. More advanced cancers require more aggressive surgery, which also involves removing lymph nodes and other tissue from the same or both sides of the neck, radiation therapy, or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy and targeted therapy may be used in addition to other treatments.

The goal... Read more about lip cancertreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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