Is Lip Cancer Curable?

Is Lip Cancer Curable?

One thumb rule is applicable to most of the cancer; early detection makes the cancer curable and lip cancer is not an exception. The severity and cure rate of the any cancer is depends on the “stages”, which presents size of the tumor, metastasis and lymph node involvement. Each increasing stage (stage 1 – stage 4) represents the increasing cancerous stage in surrounding healthy tissues.

Is Lip Cancer Curable?

Stage 0 – Carcinoma in situ

Stage 1 & 2 – Small localized tumor, which still not has spread to lymph node.

Stage 3 & 4 – Represent advance stage of cancer in which size of the tumor increases and it can spread to any of the vital organs/parts or to lymph nodes

At the primary stage lip cancer remains localized at the lip tissues but at the more advance stage it can spread to whole oral cavity, to head and neck. If it remains untreatable for longer duration the chances of spread can increase to lungs and other important organs of the body, which decrease the cure rate. The prognosis is higher if detected as earlier stage although each case remains individual. In the cancer of head and neck, lip cancer remains one of the most curable malignancies, as having very high curable rates. The rate is approximately 90% even without any interventions just with the medications. The reason could be earlier detection due to prominent location of the lesions. How much the diseases are curable can be calculated by “survival rate”.

According to SEER program of National Cancer Institute,

Stage of lip cancer 5-year relative survival Rate (%)

Stage 1-2


93 percent

Stage 3


48 percent

Stage 4


52 percent

Stages of Lip Cancer

Lip cancers are also having histopathological varieties, which also affect the cure rates. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type and the other common one is basal cell carcinoma. Due to rapid growth and increased local invasive nature along with higher capacity of metastasis with squamous cell carcinoma evolution remain more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. Mucosal melanoma of lip involving oral cavity is rare but more aggressive and having low curable rates. The malignant tumors of lip developing from other structures like leiomyosarcoma, lymphoma, rhabdomyosarcoma and angiosarcoma are also having lower rate of cure.

Above all mentioned are the different criteria on which the management of the lip cancer depends. If it is diagnosed at earlier stage than surgery is the most preferred management option with successful outcome. Surgery can include local excision to dissection of surrounding area with or without plastic surgery. Chemotherapy (regional or systemic), targeted drug therapy and radiation therapy (external or internal) are the other options. Radiation alone has a good cure rate as a single option. Cryotherapy and laser ablation are good option for small lesions in lip cancer. In advance lip cancer cases the cure rates are involving combination of two or more treatment options. More treatment option with promising cure rates are also in clinical trial i.e., hyper fractioned radiation therapy (small divided doses of total dose of therapy), hyperthermia treatment (cells are heated to kill or damage cancer cell; it also improves sensitivity to radiotherapy). Lymph node dissection also decreases the spread of metastasis.

Numerous new techniques has also been developed to reconstruction of lip avoiding unnecessary functional and morphological damage, Mohs surgery is preferred most of the time doing minimal cosmetic damage. In patient with complete lip loss, effective cure rates have been observe with Bernard- Burow’s method and flare flap procedures. Other complimentary and supportive therapy can play a vital role in therapy like, for swallowing occupational and physical therapy, few psychiatry sessions to adapt the condition etc. Lip cancer cure rates are good with multidisciplinary team manner.


Lip cancer is not immediate death sentence, but if left neglected can worsen the prognosis. So, patient in with early lip cancer diagnose have the best chance for positive outcome including better prognostic, functional and aesthetic results. Due to evolution in screening and treatment modalities the cure rate of lip and mouth cancer has been increasing significantly.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 17, 2021

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