What Are The First Signs of Lip Cancer?

Lip cancer can affect either upper lip or lower lip, but the most common location is lower lip. Most of the time lip cancer does not show any signs at the earlier stage and the first signs are dependent on advancement of the cancer. White/red patch is the earliest sign and sore on the lips is most common sign of lip cancer. It is very difficult to identify the lip cancer at earliest stage due to wide variety of symptoms which can divert the diagnosis to simple, acute and treatable condition but not lip cancer.

What Are The First Signs of Lip Cancer?

What Are The First Signs of Lip Cancer?

According to studies following are the few common first signs of lip cancer, which can be divided in two subdivisions:

  • Early signs on lips and
  • Early signs on jaw/mouth of lip cancer.

Early Signs On Lips Due To Lip Cancer

Sore On The Lips – Most Common Sign

According to studies, sore on the lips remains most common early sign and second most common presentation (with this complain patient will visit doctor) of the disease. In compare to the common sore, this type of sore is having longer duration of stay; it gets deeper with the time and sometime does not heal.

Patches On The Lip (White/Red) – Earliest Sign

Multiple white/red patches or Combination of white or red patch on the lip or sometime around the lip is the earliest sign of the lip cancer presenting some abnormal cell growth over the area.

Bleeding – Very Common Sign

Bleeding from the lip it is also one of the early sign which is very common. The site of bleeding remains either cracks over lip or the patches of over lip. The severity of the bleeding can be mild to severe from once a day to severe bleeding which seek medical attention.

Discoloration Of The Lip

If the infectious abnormal growth take place around the red and white patches can leads to discoloration of yellow or white color. This is one of the warning sign of spreading the cancer.

Insensibility Of The Lips

In few people lack of sensitivity on some part of lips becomes the first sign of lip cancer. This occurs due to nerve damage of that area due to abnormal growth. Because of that patient does not feel anything while touching the lips.

  • A lump/thinking on/around the lips
  • Ulcer on the lips
  • Tingling sensation
  • Lymphadenopathy on neck.

Early Signs Of Jaw/Mouth Due To Lip Cancer

Most commonly these are the earlier sign of late stages of lip cancer

Pain/Burning Sensation

After the chronic condition, when the cancerous cells spread into the mouth the burning sensation may start with mild to moderate pain. It also leads to difficulty in swallowing of food or drinking water. At the severe cases some minor tongue moments also leads to pain.

Swelling Of Jaw

In severe cases swelling of jaw occurs which also leads to difficulty in speaking or any kind of jaw moments most probably presenting severe lip cancer and sign of lip cancer stage 3 or above.

Another typical feature of sign of lip cancer is that it will not spread rapidly in its initial stage, but after certain period it multiplies very rapidly. Initially it will only involve the area of lip but with the longer duration as discussed above it will also involve the other areas of oral Cavity. After reaching this stage, the morbidity increases and the cure rate decreased.


It is difficult to pay attention towards the early sign of lip cancer and as like any other cancers it is beneficial to identify lip cancer at the earlier stage. Because it is curable if identified at the earlier stage. Due to very few signs of the lip cancer it is often remain undiagnosed till the later stage. Many of the times it detected during dental examination or any other routine checkups. So, the knowledge of early signs of the lip cancer is cost effective and important screening tool for the awareness.

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:September 8, 2021

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