Everything You Need To Know About Skin Cancer On The Lip
A common place for skin cancers to develop is on the lip, likely because the face receives a lot of sun exposure over our lifetime and the lips are often missed when we apply sunscreen.
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer on the lip, you might be anxious about treatment. It is natural to feel uncertain about any procedure on the face, and you may wonder how to manage everyday tasks like speaking, smiling, eating and kissing.
Your lips are a sensitive and important part of you, and so great care is taken to maintain their sensation and function when you undergo treatment for lip cancer.
The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, can appear on the upper lip on the skin-coloured part rather than the pink or red part of the lip.
More often, skin cancers develop on the lower lip, and most of these are squamous cell carcinomas. Squamous cell carcinomas are less common than their basal cell counterparts but more dangerous, and are more likely to spread.
It is also possible to develop melanoma on and around the lips.
Lip cancers are most often caused by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, and are more common in men. This is probably because men work outdoors more often and use less SPF lip balm than women do.
A common treatment for skin cancers on the lip is called Mohs surgery, which has a high cure rate and is great for delicate areas of the face where we want to preserve the healthy tissue so as not to impact your appearance.
Lip Cancer Prevention And Treatment
The best prevention is to examine your lips and report any changes in the skin, such as lip color changes, sores, or growths, to your dentist or physician as soon as possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, two treatments are common with this type of cancer.
The first is to surgically remove the patch or sore and remove some surrounding tissue to ensure all cancerous cells are gone. The second form of treatment is radiation therapy. This process applies safe sources of radiation to kill the cancer cells in your mouth. Your dentist should thoroughly examine the rest of your mouth for issues with your gums and teeth and treat those first before radiation therapy.
Lip cancer can be treated and often cured if diagnosed early, so examine your lips regularly for appearance changes. Then report those changes to your dentist or physician as soon as possible. With early detection and quick treatment, lip cancer can be eliminated.
What Can I Expect If I Have Lip Cancer
Lip cancer is more predictable when treated in the early stages. With an early diagnosis, youll likely need surgery to address the problem. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other cancer treatments will be recommended if the cancer cells have spread to other areas of your body. Your healthcare provider can tell you what to expect in regards to your treatment.
Is lip cancer fatal?
Not usually. Because lip cancer lesions develop in easily seen locations, this type of cancer is detected and treated early in most cases. As a result, lip cancer has an overall five-year survival rate of 92%. This means that 92% of people diagnosed with the condition are still alive five years later. Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates. They cant offer details about your case or tell you how long youll live. If you have more questions about survival rates, ask your healthcare provider.
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Signs Of Lip And Oral Cavity Cancer Include A Sore Or Lump On The Lips Or In The Mouth
- A sore on the lip or in the mouth that does not heal.
- A lump or thickening on the lips or gums or in the mouth.
- A white or red patch on the gums, tongue, or lining of the mouth.
- Bleeding, pain, or numbness in the lip or mouth.
- Change in voice.
- Loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well.
- Trouble chewing or swallowing or moving the tongue or jaw.
- Swelling of jaw.
- Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat.
Lip and oral cavity cancer may not have any symptoms and is sometimes found during a regular dental exam.
Can I Get Skin Cancer On My Lip
Just like any other area of the body, you can get cancer on your lips. A common type of cancer is squamous cell carcinomas, which occurs frequently on the lips, as well as on the nose and ears. This type of cancer is normally curable when its detected and treated early, but it may come back even after its been treated.
Its possible, however, to take some steps toward prevention. For starters, stay out of direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Also, avoid tanning, wear clothing that completely covers your body and use a sunscreen with an sun protection factor of 15 or higher every day .
Skin cancer is fairly common when compared to other types of cancer. In fact, an estimated 10 million Americans have actinic keratosis, which leads to squamous cell carcinoma in about one out of every 10 cases . The condition shows up as a scaly or crusty growth, called a lesion, and it can be found on the lips, as well as other areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. Actinic keratosis can lead to any form of skin cancer, not just squamous cell carcinoma. In its earliest stages, cancer on the lip area may appear as a sore that doesnt heal .
The next time youre putting on sunscreen to protect your skin against harmful ultraviolet rays and to help ward off skin cancer, dont forget your lips. For lots more information, see the links on the following page.
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Managing Dry Socket Pain
The primary treatment for a dry socket is pain management. In addition to the dry socket paste, your dentist may prescribe painkillers and send you home with directions on using ice packs and rinse gently with a saltwater solution. You still need to maintain good oral hygiene, so be particularly careful when using a toothbrush.
How Is Lip Cancer Treated
There are several approaches, and the best treatment depends on the size and stage of the cancer. Lip cancer treatments include:
- Surgery. Your surgeon removes the cancer lesion and repairs the lip. If you have a large tumor, reconstructive surgery can restore your appearance.
- Radiation therapy. This treatment uses powerful X-ray beams to target and kill cancer. Radiation therapy may be used as a standalone treatment, or it may be recommended after surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. Drugs are given in pill form or through a vein to kill cancer cells. Sometimes chemotherapy is combined with radiation therapy. If your lip cancer has spread to other parts of your body and no other treatments are available, then chemotherapy may be recommended to ease your symptoms.
- Targeted drug therapy. Usually combined with chemotherapy, this approach targets certain genes and proteins of cancer cells. This can interfere with the environment of the cancer cells and cause them to die.
- Immunotherapy. This boosts your own bodys immune system and helps it fight off cancer cells. Immunotherapy may be used alone or in combination with other cancer treatments. For lip cancer, immunotherapy is typically only used when the cancer is advanced and when other treatments arent an option.
Are there complications regarding lip cancer treatment?
Other general side effects related to cancer treatments include:
- Increased vulnerability to infection.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The first sign of an SCC is usually a thickened, red, scaly spot thatdoesnt heal. You are most likely to find an SCC on the back of your hands,forearms, legs, scalp, ears or lips. If its on your lips, it can look like asmall ulcer or patch of scaly skin that doesnt go away.
An SCC may also look like:
- a sore or rough patch inside your mouth
An SCC will probably grow quickly over several weeks or months.
What Does Lip Cancer Look Like
Lip cancer often looks like a mouth sore that wont heal. In people with light skin, this sore may appear reddish. In people with darker skin, it may appear dark brown or gray. Lip cancer can look different for everyone, so if you notice something strange, you should call your healthcare provider for an appointment.
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Lip Melanoma Differs From Other Cancers
As discussed early, one in five people develops skin cancer in their lifetime, including lip cancer. This type of disease differs from others because it is almost always curable if caught early, and it typically appears on your skin. Other types of cancer appear in other parts of your body, such as in organs or bones.
Staging For Basal Cell Carcinoma And Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Skin Depends On Where The Cancer Formed
Staging for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the eyelid is different from staging for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma found on other areas of the head or neck. There is no staging system for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma that is not found on the head or neck.
Surgery to remove the primary tumor and abnormal lymph nodes is done so that tissue samples can be studied under a microscope. This is called pathologic staging and the findings are used for staging as described below. If staging is done before surgery to remove the tumor, it is called clinical staging. The clinical stage may be different from the pathologic stage.
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What Does Squamous Cell Carcinoma Look Like
Look for a new bump or scaly spot on your skin that doesnt go away, Chi advised.
People with weakened immune systems including patients who have had organ transplants, are infected with HIV or take medication that suppresses their immune systems are at greater risk for squamous cell skin cancer.
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French had spent a lot of time in the sun from 8th grade through high school while playing sports like soccer and softball. She used sunscreen, but not all the time on her face, she said.
About 700,000 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Chi called it the second-worst kind of skin cancer after melanoma because it can spread to other parts of the body and become potentially life-threatening.
But if it’s found early, the American Cancer Society noted, squamous cell carcinoma is considered to be highly curable.
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Squamous Cell Carcinoma Of The Lip: Analysis Of The Princess Margaret Hospital Experience
Cerezo L, Radiother Oncol 1993 Aug 28:142-7 We reviewed 117 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the lip who were treated at the Princess Margaret Hospital between 1976 and 1985. The 5-year actuarial overall and cause-specific survival rates were 81% and 99%, respectively. After a univariate analysis, the only factor which predicted for nodal failure was T stage of the primary lesion, with a 4% risk of nodal failure for T1 lesions vs. 20% for T2/3 lesions. Based on the excellent results of this review, we would continue to recommend radiation therapy as an effective treatment modality for patients with lip cancer because of the ease by which the entire tumour can be encompassed whilst maintaining excellent cosmetic and functional outcome.
Basal Cell Carcinoma On The Lip
Accounting for greater than 90% of all skin cancers occurring among Americans, basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent type. While it rarely metastasizes to other sites in the body, BCC may cause damage to surrounding tissues. BCCs form on and around the lips quite often, and it is therefore important to have a dermatologist check for changing or suspicious lesions regularly. A BCC on the lip often appears as a crusty spot that will not heal. Many people assume these are just chapped lips or cold sores. Ensure your prediction is correct and catch anything unusual early by calling today to schedule an appointment.
What causes a BCC to form?
BCCs are generally caused by harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun or the use of tanning beds. When these rays come in contact with the skin, they can damage each skin cells DNA. The body attempts to fix the skin damage, but when it is frequently exposed, it can no longer adequately repair itself. This can lead to skin cancers developing, such as BCC. Generally speaking, BCC skin cancer tends to appear in areas of skin that receive a lot of sun of the years, such as the lips. A number of risk factors can increase the risk of developing a BCC, including but not limited to:
- Personal physical traits
- Light skin complexion and/or freckles
- The tendency to auburn rather than tan
- Contributing activities
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Ask The Expert: What Will Help Me Feel Less Nervous About My Lip Cancer
Q: My dermatologist diagnosed a skin cancer on my lip, and Im worried about the treatment. Whats going to happen to my face if I have surgery? And what about the things my lips do, like eating and kissing?
Its understandable to feel nervous about surgery on such a sensitive and important part of you. But lip cancers are common. I see a lot of them in my practice as a Mohs surgeon, and most have a very good outcome keeping sensation and function intact so you can taste a strawberry, kiss a loved one and maintain your smile.
First, some basics: Basal cell carcinomas , the most common type of skin cancer, may appear on the upper lip, more commonly on the outer cutaneous part adjacent to the lip rather than the vermilion part. The majority of lip cancers appear on the lower lip, and most of those are squamous cell carcinomas , which have a higher chance of spreading than BCCs.
The leading risk factor for lip cancer is ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Tanning beds contribute, too. Men get more lip cancers than women, perhaps because they work outdoors more and dont use lip balms with SPF protection as often as women do. Pigments with minerals or iron oxides in colored lipsticks may also help protect lips from the sun.
Smoking, alcohol consumption, having a suppressed immune system and being exposed to the human papillomavirus may also contribute to the risk for lip cancers.
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Lip Cancer Risk Factors
Fair-skinned people are more susceptible to developing lip cancer than individuals with a darker skin tone. Frequent alcohol and tobacco users are also at a higher risk of developing this form of oral cancer. Males are statistically at an increased risk for developing lip cancer since men are more likely to be tobacco users and work in an occupation based outdoors. Lip cancer risk factors include:
- Significant sun exposure
- Human papillomavirus
- Treatment for Lip Cancer
Tumors found on or around the lips often extend to other areas of the mouth, which is why treatment starts with a full examination of all areas that could be affected. The goal with any treatment for lip cancer is to preserve the functionality of the lips. Treatment for lip cancer can involve surgery, or a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, which can be administered through oral medication.
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Symptoms Of Lip Cancer
The symptoms of lip cancer can occur on one or both lips, although they most often affect the bottom lip. Common lip cancer symptoms include:
- A lump or thickened area
- Pain or numbness
- Red or white patches
Lip cancer can appear differently based on a person’s skin tone as well as the type of cancer and its stage, so it’s important to promptly speak with a medical professional if any unusual symptoms or visible changes around the mouth area occur.
What Is The Process For Diagnosing Lip Cancer
When it comes to diagnosis, Dr. Condie says, Unfortunately, even with regular self-exams, the early warning signs of lip cancer can be subtle, making it difficult to self-diagnose. Many people who receive a lip cancer diagnosis in the early stages receive this diagnosis during a dental appointment, from a general care physician, or during an annual professional skin exam with their dermatologist.
In most cases, your dermatologist will notice warning signs of lip cancer when performing a regular visual examination of the skin. If a concerning spot is found, your dermatologist will often perform a biopsy by removing a small sample of skin from the affected area. The sample should then be then examined under a microscope by a dermatopathologist, a doctor who has extensive training in skin and lip cancer diagnosis. If a cancer diagnosis is confirmed, your dermatologist will help guide further evaluation and treatment. For many early lip cancers, surgery alone is sufficient treatment. If your lip cancer is more advanced and there is concern that it has spread, your dermatologist may refer you to another specialist, such as a head-and-neck surgeon, oncologist, or surgical oncologist.
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