Lip cancers are the abnormal and unregulated cell growths that develop on lips and are a type of oral cancer. The cells are basically the squamous cells that line the oral cavity.The prevalence of lip cancer is rising with the change in lifestyles of population. Around 40,000 people are diagnosed for lip cancers every year.
Causes of Lip Cancer
Lip cancers are caused due to irritation of the squamous cells lining the mucosa of the oral cavity. These are caused as a consequence of lifestyle or behavioral factors. The irritation of cells can be brought about by the consumption of tobacco products. Tobacco especially in the form of smoking or chewable form is the commonest cause of carcinoma of the lip. Other causes for lip cancer may include intake of alcohol and excessive exposure to the sun. The risk factors for lip cancers include:
- Use of tobacco products includingchewable tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and pipes
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Sunlight exposures for long periods or use of tanning beds
- Gender with males being affected more than female
- Skin color as it is more common in fair people over the dark ones
- Human Papilloma Virus infection
- People aged 40 years or above are more prone to get such cancers.
Signs and symptoms of Lip Cancer
A lesion may be present on the lip in the form of sore, ulcer, lump or blister and may be persistent for long period. It may also manifest in the form of a red or a white patch. There may be a single lesion or patch or these can be in multiple numbers. Besides, one may notice swelling of the jaws along with bleeding from the lips. These lesions can be painful sometimes.
Diagnosis of Lip Cancer
These types of cancers are diagnosed either by a physician or a dentist by physical examination of the lip. The doctor may examine the lip with a gloved finger or a set of mirror and probe to carefully examine the lesion. The examination includes checking for the dimensions, hardness and oozing of fluids from the lesions. Even the lymph nodes of head and neck region are palpated to check for any swelling or inflammation. Besides examination, the doctors may ask about the detailed history of past illnesses, treatments, medication history and the family history for cancer.
Biopsies are performed to confirm the diagnosis as it is crucial to differentially diagnose cancer from other similar diseases. Metastatic forms of lip cancer that might have spread to other parts of body can be diagnosed with the following tests:
- MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging
- CT scan
- PET scan or Positron Emission Tomography
- X-ray of chest
- CBC or Complete Blood Count
Treatment of Lip Cancer
The treatment may vary depending upon the size or extent of spread of cancer. The various treatment measures include:
- Surgical removal of the small lesions under local anesthesia
- Larger cancers can be treated by a prior chemotherapy or radiation therapy to shrink the lesion followed by the surgical removal and cosmetic reconstruction of lip.
- These days immunotherapy and gene therapies ate also deployed to treat cancers.
- Quitting from smoking and alcohol lead to better prognosis.
Complications associated with Lip Cancer
Lip cancers if not treated in time, may lead to metastasis to distant sites through the blood stream. Besides the treatment measures like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy may lead to several complications like:
- Alteration of speech
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
- Cosmetic alteration of face
- Loss of hair
- Weakness, nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite and weight
- Dryness of skin
- Sore throat
- Shaking of hand and feet
- Compromised immunity increasing the susceptibility to infections
- Altered taste