It is easy to miss the first symptoms of lip cancer. In its early stages, the disease is usually painless, and there do not tend to be obvious physical signs of a problem. It could show up as patches of red or white, or manifest itself as a small ulcer that looks similar to the more benign canker sore. In more advanced stages, the symptoms of lip cancer may appear as lesions or sores on the lips, or a thick, lumpy feeling in the area. Lips may also be numb or painful, but just as often there is no sensation at all.
Even when lip cancer becomes visible, it can be difficult to distinguish from other ailments of the mouth. Discolorations or ulcers on the lips are usually benign, but if they do not heal within two weeks, they should be examined by a doctor as potential symptoms of lip cancer. Dentists and doctors are more likely to be able to detect the disease in its early stages, as they are more alert to and knowledgeable about changes in the mouth tissue. They may even be able to detect the cancer before testing.
If treated early, symptoms of lip cancer can be relatively mild. A biopsy should be performed as soon as possible if a lump, ulcer or discoloration is deemed suspicious by a medical professional. If not caught in the early stages, lip cancer can spread to through the oral cavity and down to the neck. Fast treatment is especially important with lip cancer as it can spread quickly.
Lip cancer is not common, but it can be extremely serious if not caught in its early stages. Swollen lymph glands in the neck are a sign of more advanced lip cancer. By this time, lumps may be noticeable in the mouth and neck. Once the lymph glands are affected, there is increased danger of the cancer spreading via lymph fluid and blood to the rest of the body.
Treatment for lip cancer typically involves a team effort between an oncologist and a dentist, the former performing surgery and the latter providing additional oversight. Usually treatment begins with surgery to remove the cancerous lump. Lymph nodes may also be removed from the neck so that tests can be done to ensure that the cancer has not begun to spread. After surgery, radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells is common. Chemotherapy may be used if the disease is more aggressive or advanced.