Lip Cancer

The lips, one of the most important human sense organs, are used for articulation, for eating and for facial expressions. A tumor in this area is associated with significant functional impairments. In most cases, it is a malignant form of a tumor. However, if lip cancer is diagnosed in the early stages, there are good chances of recovery.

What is lip cancer?

According to, lip cancer is an overgrowth of malignant cancerous cells that has spread to one or both lips. Risk factors are mainly nicotine and intensive sunbathing. Lip cancer is divided into two categories. Its growth can be exophylitic or endophylitic.

Exophylitic (exo – outside) growing carcinomas show their volume clearly demarcated from the environment with a typical fissured surface. They penetrate into deeper layers. In the further course, the ulcer (ulcer) becomes visible in the center.

Lip cancer that grows endophytically (endo-inside) is perceived as a tough and thickened rim. It looks slightly raised compared to the surrounding skin, but falls flat towards the middle. At the base of the tumor you can see the gray to reddish spots ( fibrin ).


The causes are complex. Smoking and a high consumption of alcoholic high-proof drinks are very often the main risk factors involved in the development. But excessive sunbathing is also harmful to health. However, both factors at the same time favor the risk all the more.

An unbalanced diet leads to various deficiency symptoms in the body. For example, an iron deficiency and vitamin deficiency can promote the development of cancer. Dentists also point to an increasing lack of oral hygiene. Caries and periodontitis are only harmless phenomena.

As a result, the foci of inflammation spread further through invading germs, viruses and bacteria and promote the development of carcinomas. If a denture is still needed at this stage, fitting can pose problems. This presses and rubs in addition, so that the focus of infection is not limited to the lip area.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

The increased UV light when sunbathing stands as a primary risk factor. This also explains the frequent occurrence of carcinoma on the lower lip. The upper lip is therefore less exposed to the sun from an anatomical point of view, but is still susceptible to this type of cancer.

Lip carcinoma grows very slowly. During the initial phase, light to whitish spots that cannot be wiped away form on the transitional mucosa on the lips, the cells of which are more keratinized than in the surrounding area. Leukoplakia (white callus disease) develops, which is considered a kind of precursor to cancer. The affected lip area begins to hurt and swell. This is followed by strongly demarcated, dark red and slightly raised nodules.

Signs of cancer can sometimes be recognized by early symptoms that are not primarily specific to the affected part of the body. Connections with existing diseases are also often drawn. In the later course, metastases can form via the lymphatic system, which can trigger further complications.

Problems arise, for example, with chewing and swallowing. The closely branched facial nerves react to pressure effects. Chewing difficulties are the result of swelling in the jaw area, which develops as a result of pinching and pressure from the surrounding nerves. Some patients also complain of speech disorders. Psychosocial effects are therefore inevitable.

Malignant cancers, like lip cancer, are associated with significant weight loss or chronic fatigue, which are always serious warning signs.

Diagnosis & disease progression

Lip cancer is often confused with herpes simplex, which is often followed by self-treatment with various creams or ointments. However, these greatly aggravate the starting position. This also applies to careless waiting, because lip cancer is often only recognized at a late stage. Therefore, in the case of unclear symptoms or suspicious changes in the skin’s appearance, a doctor should be clarified in any case.

The diagnosis of lip cancer is usually made by a clinical examination using a magnifying glass. An already existing leukoplakia (precursor to cancer) confirms the suspicion by the typical, malignant changes in the complexion. The doctors use ultrasound, X- ray, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging to examine the structure of the tissue to confirm the findings.

In the elimination process, a tissue sample (biopsy) is finally carried out under local anesthesia. Through the histological examination, the pathologist can determine the final diagnosis result. If the malignant ulcer is less than five millimeters in size, there are still very good chances of healing.


Because of lip cancer, the sufferer usually suffers from various ailments and symptoms that appear directly on the lips. In most cases, this results in white spots that cannot be removed. The lips also swell and can also hurt. It is not uncommon for lip cancer to lead to restrictions or problems with the intake of food and liquids, which can lead to deficiency symptoms or dehydration.

As a rule, lip cancer can also spread to other areas of the body and also affect healthy tissue there. It is not uncommon for lip cancer to lead to speech impediments or weight loss. As with other tumor diseases, the patient becomes exhausted and tired. The quality of life of those affected is significantly restricted and reduced by lip cancer.

Lip cancer can be treated with surgery. There are no particular complications. If lip cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, it can usually still be treated well. The patient’s life expectancy may be reduced if the cancer continues to spread.

When should you go to the doctor?

If the lips swell, there is cause for concern. If hypersensitivity to the cosmetic products applied can be ruled out, a doctor should be consulted to determine the cause of the swelling. If you have pain or discomfort in your lip, consult a doctor. If the person concerned suffers from loss of appetite, weight loss or refuses to eat, a doctor should be consulted.

Discoloration of the lips, a feeling of pressure in the lips or other skin changes must be examined and treated. A lump formation on the lips or in their immediate vicinity is a warning sign of the organism. A doctor’s visit should be made so that various tests can be used to determine the cause of the symptoms. A doctor should be consulted in the event of swelling in the area of ​​the jaw, irregularities in the interior of the mouth or changes in the position of the teeth.

Numbness or loss of sensitivity in the face is uncommon. A doctor’s visit is necessary because the nerves in the face are no longer adequately supplied. A doctor is needed if there is a change in the formation of sounds, speech disorders or problems with the desired deformation of the lips. If the person concerned suffers from tiredness and an increased need for sleep, a doctor should be consulted. Weakness after doing light physical activities is unusual and should also be checked out by a doctor.

Treatment & Therapy

Before the start of the treatment, an intensive anamnesis interview takes place. The doctor will inquire about current symptoms and their course, general medical history, family circumstances and hereditary diseases. Targeted queries relate to risk factors such as smoking habits and drinking habits.

Using a special medical mirror device, the doctor starts examining the lips, continues to feel the oral cavity and the lymph nodes in the neck and lower jaw. As a result, even small magnifications can be determined. Although tumors are usually surgically removed, radiation is an alternative in some cases.

It is also possible to use both methods one after the other. However, the disadvantage of radiation before the operation is the high tendency of the tissue to bleed during a surgical intervention. Ultimately, surgery is the only way to reduce the spread of cancer.

The tumor is removed from the adjacent, healthy tissue in all planes with a safety margin of approximately one centimeter. Thus, the procedure also represents a significant aesthetic incision combined with possible psychological stress. The lip is a very conspicuous facial region anyway, which also performs important functions.

An intervention therefore also influences articulation, facial expressions and food intake. A plastic reconstruction should also be carried out at a certain time. This is especially important in the face area. In rare cases, Electro-Cancer-Therapy (ECT) can be used. This is a tumor-destroying method of alternative cancer treatment.

Here, platinum electrodes are placed, which directly destroy the malignant cells of the tumor by means of a gentle current. However, its use depends on the size of the tumour, the status of the lymph nodes and other metastases in the body, as well as the age of the patient and their general condition. Chemotherapy only comes into play when there are no longer any chances of recovery from previous treatments such as radiation and surgery.

Outlook & Forecast

If lip cancer can be diagnosed and treated at an early stage of the disease, the chances of a cure are good. Without medical treatment, the prognosis worsens significantly. The cancer cells can spread through the bloodstream in the organism and form metastases in different parts of the body. If the malignant cells are not prevented from the cell division process, they will successively destroy organs and important functions for the maintenance of human life. Ultimately, the patient dies prematurely.

Timely cancer treatment increases the chances of recovery. In addition to radiation, there is the option of surgical intervention to remove the affected and diseased tissue. The treatment measures taken are characterized by numerous risks and side effects. The quality of life is reduced and there is often severe psychological stress. Nevertheless, according to the current state of medical research, the existing treatment methods are the only way to alleviate the symptoms.

The more stable the immune system of the affected person and the fewer previous illnesses, the better the prospects for a cure. Despite being free of symptoms, lip cancer can break out again at any time later in life. In most cases, the prognosis worsens with a re-infestation.


A healthy lifestyle means that a large number of complaints and diseases do not even appear. To prevent lip cancer, it is simply a matter of avoiding the risk factors. So it requires the avoidance of alcohol and nicotine. Regular dental care and check-ups with dental sanitation at the dentist must be observed.

Furthermore, plenty of sun protection products should be used in summer and staying in the shade is preferable if you are exposed to strong sunlight. In the case of unclear skin changes or non-healing wounds, medical advice must of course be obtained.


If the lip cancer could be treated successfully, it is important for those affected to ensure a health-promoting lifestyle. If the symptoms that occurred during treatment, such as permanent tiredness and exhaustion, are no longer present, aftercare focuses on dealing with the disease with confidence. Due to the mental stress, those affected often suffer from depressive moods.

If the disease is diagnosed early, it can be completely cured. Regular check-ups should then be carried out. If the cancer has spread further, this can significantly reduce the life expectancy of those affected.

You can do that yourself

Basically, direct sunlight should be avoided. Sufficient sunscreen should be applied to protect against UV light and solarium visits should be avoided. The sun protection factor must be adjusted to the individual skin conditions. In addition, the consumption of nicotine or similar products should be avoided. These increase the risk of lip cancer or can further worsen the health condition.

Patients are advised to limit the use of cosmetic items on their face. Itching and chafing as well as self-responsible elimination of conspicuous skin changes is to be avoided. The disease is associated with numerous restrictions and changes in everyday processes. Therefore, it is important for the patient to strengthen themselves mentally and emotionally. Despite the symptoms, oral hygiene should be carried out sufficiently so that no further diseases break out. The supply of food and fluids must also take place to a comprehensive extent in order not to trigger an undersupply of the organism.

Despite all the adversities, it is advisable for the patient to maintain an optimistic attitude in his situation and not to neglect the needs of his own body. In order to avoid the impairments in vocalization, communication should take place in alternative ways. The patient can communicate digitally or in writing to his environment and thus relieve his lips.

Lip Cancer