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Lip Cancer - Pictures, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Updated on December 22, 2013

Lip Cancer Pictures

What is Lip Cancer?

Lip cancer is an uncommon type of cancer although it is the most common form among oral cavity cancer. It is a growth of neoplasm or malignant tumor that started off from one of the lip most commonly in the lower lip. Lip cancer is generally a squamous cell cancer that has the ability to spread. Although rare in incidence, lip cancer can be serious and can be potentially fatal especially when left untreated. Lip cancer for most, is prevalent in male gender over the age of ears although there are reports of increasing incidence in female gender. The prognosis is good for those who sought prompt treatment during the early stage while poor prognosis if not negative for those left untreated. Lips are soft movable muscle that is part of the human body which serves as a passage for nutrient and for sound and speech articulation. Both the upper and the lower are joined by the vermilion border with the upper lip vermilion border known as Cupid’s bow. The red coloring of the lips is due to the mirrored blood vessels as a result of thinness in the skin and fewer numbers of melanocytes as compared to the facial skin. Anatomically, the lips have no protection at all mainly because it does not contain hair nor does it have any sweat glands unlike the other skin of the rest of the body. The skin of the lips is composed of stratified squamous epithelium and corresponds to large area of the sensory cortex making it highly sensitive. Lips are an essential part of the body basically to let in the food for nutrient intake while speech and sound articulation is dependent on the lips that damage to it can highly affect its function.

What does Lip Cancer look like?

Lip cancer appears as non-healing ulcer with discoloration and often occurs on the lower lip. The size of the tumor on the other hand, varies and depends on the stage at which the cancer has progressed.

Stage I lip cancer has a size of not more one inch in diameter and no spread of cancer can be noted.

Stage II is identified with neoplasm size of less than two inches in diameter while spread of cancer is still not present.

Stage III is represented with a neoplasm size of more than 2 inches in diameter with cancer extending to the lymph node on the side of the neck parallel to the lip cancer.

Stage IV is defined with metastasis of cancer to other areas of the lips or other areas of the oral cavity and may have also extended to other parts of the body.

The development of neoplasm can be primary or may occur as secondary to existing underlying condition. It is important however, to identify the stage of lip cancer to determine the proper medical approach and therapies for the cure of cancer and prevention of advancing stage.


Lip cancer often starts in the squamous cells then extends to the deeper part of the lip. The primary manifestation of lip cancer is usually the onset of sore on the lip that would not heal and may have gone on to stay for more than 3 weeks. It is imperative to have the lip sore checked when it stays longer than usual so as prompt treatment and medical approach can be applied and prevent further progression.

Telltale signs that lip cancer is developing includes the following:

  • Development of non-healing sore on the lip persisting for more than 3 to 4 weeks associated with irritation that is similar to a chapped skin.
  • Formation of lump or skin thickening of the affected lip
  • Noticeable lip discoloration on the affected part
  • Lip bleeding like it has been scraped or peeled
  • Numbness or tingling sensation on the lip
  • Feeling of pain on the lip
  • Palpable lymph node on the side of the neck and which should be alerting as this may signal metastasis of neoplasm.
  • Numbness of jaw
  • Jaw swelling or swelling inside the oral cavity.


Lip cancer can be primary or may be secondary to an existing underlying condition. The exact etiology of lip cancer and other oral cavity cancer remains uncertain except that they all originated from squamous cell which has the ability to spread. Risk factors have been identified to contribute to the development of neoplasm in the lips and oral cavity.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for lip cancer include the following:

Prolonged exposure under the sun is believed to be a contributory factor for the development of lip cancer. The effect of ultraviolet rays of the sun in prolonged period has been represented in reports of lip cancer patient who works for long period under the sun including those who are in constant activity under the sun.

Alcohol abuse has also been implicated as risk factor for lip cancer as approximately half of majority cases of lip cancer and oral cancer are found to be heavy drinkers.

Human pappilomavirus (HPV) or the sexually transmitted disease can weaken the immune system and thereby prone to develop lip cancer as the body’s immune system is much weak to ward off foreign materials from the body.

Cigarette smoking and tobacco use has been found in majority of patients suffering from lip cancer that it has been implicated for the development of cancer.

Male gender and above the age of 40 are at high risk for lip cancer mainly because of the activities most males are engaged to as compared to female genders.


Treating lip cancer is aimed in permanently treating the cancer while preventing possible remission. The early stage is curable while the advance stage is rather questionable. For most part, combination of surgical procedure and radiation therapy has been found effective for early stage of lip cancer.

Treatment regimen however, is dependent on the stage of cancer and overall health condition of the patient. Common treatments for lip cancer however, include the following:

  • Attacking cancer cells utilizing chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • Surgical removal of the cancer cells
  • Other treatments meant for relief of symptoms.


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