Lip cancer is a type of oral cancer which develops in thin and flat cells that line the lips, mouth, tongue, cheeks, sinuses, throat, hard and soft palates.
Although lip cancer is highly curable when diagnosed early, people previously with lip cancer have an increased chance of developing a second cancer in the head, neck, or mouth. Moreover, there are many potential complications of lip cancer.
What are potential complications?
- Cancer Spread. A lip tumor can spread to other areas of the mouth and tongue as well as distant parts of the body if left untreated. It becomes much more difficult to cure if the cancer spreads.
- Functional and cosmetic consequences. People may experience trouble with speech, chewing, and swallowing after the surgery to remove large tumors on their lips.
- Disfigurement of the lip and face due to surgery. This may be the problem caused after surgery. Reconstructive or cosmetic surgeons can rebuild the bones and tissues of the face.
- Other side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. They include hair loss, weakness and fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, numbness in the hands and feet, severe anemia, weight loss, dry skin, sore throat, change in taste, infection, and oral mucositis, etc.
Prevention is better than cure. Hence, it’s important to know what your risk factors are in order to prevent it or detect it early on if you do develop symptoms.
What are the symptoms of lip cancer?
Signs and symptoms of lip cancer include:
- a sore, lesion, blister, ulcer, or lump on the mouth that doesn’t go away
- a red or white patch on the lip
- bleeding or pain on the lips
- swelling of the jaw
However, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have lip cancer if you have a sore or lump on your lips. Discuss any symptoms with your ENT doctor.
Who’s more likely to have lip cancer?
Your behaviors and lifestyle heavily influence your risk for lip cancer. There are some risk factors that may increase your risk for lip cancer. They include:
- tobacco use
- heavy alcohol use
- prolonged exposure to direct sunlight
- having light-colored skin
- being male
- having human papillomavirus (HPV)
- being older than 40 years of age
Prevention of lip cancer
You can reduce your risk of lip cancer by avoiding activities leading to lip cancer, and by taking care of your mouth. They include:
- avoid using tobacco
- avoid drinking excessive alcohol
- limit exposure to both natural and artificial sunlight
- get a full course of the HPV vaccine
- see your dentist regularly
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