Bellevue Dentist Discusses Early Lip Cancer Detection

Bellevue Dentists may be able to spot some skin cancers of the face and neck areas when they are in the early treatable stages.  Regular visits to your Bellevue Family Dentist could aid in the early detection of lip cancers, which are a type of oral cancer.  Exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of lip cancer, which occurs most often on the lower lip. Avoiding the sun or using some type of sunscreen or colored lipstick on the lips may decrease the risk of lip cancer.  Sun-induced skin cancers are the most common types of cancers in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute, with more than one million new cases diagnosed each year.

In addition to exposure to the sun, other common risk factors for developing lip cancer as well as some other types of oral cancer are alcohol use, tobacco use, the human papilloma virus (HPV), male gender, and age over 40.  Approximately 26,000 new oral cancers, including lip cancer, are estimated to occur annually in the United States.  Of that total, between 10% and 15% are cancers of the lip.

Early lip cancers may have no symptoms. When symptoms do present themselves, the most common situation is a sore on the lip that will not heal. Most lip cancers develop on the lower lip and are squamous cell cancers.  These are cancers caused by changes and abnormal growth of the flat, disc-like cells that line and cover the lip.

Lip cancer symptoms commonly involve only the lip itself.  However, the cancers may involve other areas when they spread. When diagnosed early, lip cancer has an excellent prognosis and potentially can be cured by either surgery or radiation therapy. Later stages may also be treated with surgery or radiation or a combination of the two methods.  Most lip cancers that develop into serious problems do so because medical assistance was not sought at an early stage in the development of the disease.  Therefore regular visits to your family dentist should be maintained, usually at the time recommended by your dentist.  Any type of suspicious sore or lesion that you notice should be presented to your dentist at the time of your visit.  Bellevue Dentists at Brookside Dental have started to use the Velscope for assistance in detecting oral diseases including cancer. The Velscope should be useful in helping to detect oral lesions and diseases in most oral areas including the tongue which was discussed previously on our dental blog.

Common Symptoms of Lip Cancer

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation common lip cancer symptoms include:

  • Bleeding lip area
  • Discolored or darkened area of the lip
  • Enlarged lymph nodes around the head or neck
  • Lip sore that does not heal
  • Lump in or under the lip
  • Numbness, tingling, or pain of the lip
  • Swelling in the jaw or mouth
  • Thickened area on the lip which may also be discolored

Left untreated, lip cancer can result in serious conditions. Seek prompt medical care if you have bleeding that does not stop, persistent or unusual symptoms, or trouble eating, drinking or swallowing.

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