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Lip Cancer Symptoms

What are the signs and symptoms of lip cancer?

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Updated July 01, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Lip cancer is a type of oral cancer that occurs when malignant cells develop in the lips. Lip cancer symptoms can be non-specific and similar to that of less serious conditions. As with any disease, early detection is key, so it is important to report any symptoms to your doctor.

Lip Cancer Symptoms

The most common symptom of lip cancer is a sore, lesion, or ulcer, usually on the lower lip, that does not heal. Some people experience painful and/or bleeding sores. A sore can develop on the outside of the lips or on the inner fold. Lip cancer develops more often on the lower lip, but can occur on the upper lip as well.

What to Expect at the Doctor If You Have Lip Cancer Symptoms

At the doctor's office, your doctor will visually examine the sore or lesion. He will want to know how long you have had it, if it has become worse, and if you suspect anything may have caused it. Eating new foods, biting your lip, medications, and other things may cause lip sores.

Ultimately, only a biopsy can rule out lip cancer. Under local anesthesia, the doctor can biopsy the area in office. Pain is minimal and usually subsides in 1-2 days. Advanced or complex cases may require general anesthesia or sedation. In addition, children who require biopsies may be given general anesthesia.

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