How to Diagnose Lip Cancer


According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, lip cancer is "the most common form of oral cancer." Consistent sun exposure can increase your chances of developing the disease. Only a physician can properly diagnose signs and symptoms of lip cancer. It is imperative to seek immediate medical attention if you begin to develop sores or lesions upon your lips. If lip cancer is detected in its early stages, treatments can possibly cure the disease.

Things You'll Need

  • Physician visit
  • Diagnostic tests

Seek medical attention if you show signs of sores upon your lips that won't heal. See a physician or dentist if you also begin to notice any strange changes in your mouth such as lumps, white patches within your mouth or around your mouth, or any other changes that cause you pain or difficulty in swallowing or chewing.

Have your physician do a physical exam of your entire mouth, throat, gums, teeth and lips. She will also feel your neck for any hard masses or lumps that may indicate swollen lymph nodes. Depending on tests, she may also recommend a biopsy.

Tell your physician if you've smoked cigarettes or chewed tobacco in the past or presently, as this can contribute to oral cancer and can help make a diagnosis of lip cancer.

Undergo an incisional biopsy to remove part of a skin lesion. The laboratory will examine the sample to determine if cancer cells are present.

Have an aspiration cytology if a mass is too large for an incisional biopsy. You may be required to undergo several cytologies in order to get a sufficient amount of cellular material. Ask your tissue pathologist prior to the procedure if you have any questions or concerns regarding how the sample is taken and how the procedure is conducted.

Ask your dentist for an "oral brush" biopsy if you'd prefer not to undergo the other procedures. Your dentist will rub a small sample of the affected area with a brush to collect cell samples, which can then be examined under a microscope to check for cancer cells.

Undergo any additional testing, such as a CT scan or MRI, to confirm the diagnosis of a malignancy. Once you have a confirmed diagnosis, follow up conscientiously with your oncologist on how to best treat your cancer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear a lip balm that has an SPF of at least 15.
  • Once you've been diagnosed, use a tape recorder at your doctor's visits to help you remember what your oncologist tells you. This will help later when it comes to discussing your treatment options.
  • Don't wait to see a physician if you begin to develop sores upon your lips.
  • The longer you wait to seek a diagnosis, the more difficult it becomes to treat your cancer.

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