Lip cancer is a type of oral cancer wherein proliferation of cancer cells happens in the skin of the lips. Although it can happen anywhere along the upper or lower lip, it is most commonly seen in the lower lip. Lip Cancer is usually categorised under the head and neck type of cancer. They are usually squamous cell carcinomas, i.e. they normally originate in the thin, flat squamous cells found in the outer and middle layer of the skin.
Just like any other forms of cancer, the exact cause of lip cancer is yet to be discovered but several studies and researches show that it usually happens due to mutation or changes in the cellular DNA. The DNA then instructs the cells to grow and divide abnormally without dying, eventually causing them to pile up to form tumorous structures that gradually invade and damage healthy body tissues.
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of lip cancer include:
Gender: Male are more prone to lip cancer than the female counterpart.
Age: People above 40 years have aggravated chances of this type of cancer.
Skin Colour: Lip cancer is more common in fair-skinned people than the ones with medium to dark colour.
Unhealthy Habits: Use of unhealthy substances like tobacco, cigarettes, pipes, cigars, snuff or even alcohol can make a person more prone to lip cancer.
Exposure To Sunlight: Over exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of lip cancer.
Weakened Immune System: People suffering from a weakened immune system due to autoimmune disorders or chronic conditions like HIV or AIDS are more at risk of this type of cancer.
Infections: Having diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections like HPV or Human papillomavirus increases the chances of lip cancer.
Although symptoms crop up at a much later stage, the common signs and symptoms of lip cancer include:
- Lesions, blister, sores, ulcers, on the mouth or lips that doesn’t go away naturally
- White or red patch on the lip
- Discoloration of the lips
- Lip bleeding
- Swelling of the jaw and the mouth
Diagnosis And Treatment
If you notice any of the above signs and symptoms, do consult a dentist right away. The doctor does a thorough check-up of the oral cavities, presses the lip and gum to find any swelling or discomfort, acknowledges the patient’s past medical history, family history, the use of other medications and may conduct some diagnostic procedures. These include:
- Complete blood count
- Imaging techniques like CT-scan, X-ray, MRI-scan, PET-scan etc.
Treatment options usually depend on the size of the cancerous sore, severity of the condition and the health of the patient. This includes:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted drug therapy