Lip cancer can appear as gray or white patches on the lips or as red lesions, explains the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The type of lesion depends on the type of cells that are cancerous. For instance, white lesions typically accompany leukoplakia in which the mucous membrane of the lip is cancerous.
Sometimes lip cancers go overlooked because the lesions are dismissed as regular mouth ulcers or canker sores, notes the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. However, canker sores heal within a few weeks while cancerous lesions do not heal, according to Healthline. A blister or lump that does not go away is an early symptom of lip cancer and needs to be checked out by a medical professional immediately. Some other signs include lip bleeding, pain and a swollen jaw.
Lip cancer can go unnoticed at first, so an individual needs to make regular appointments with a dentist, who is usually the first medical professional to notice lip cancer, advises Healthline. Other than a physical examination, a doctor can also biopsy the lesion or order a test to determine if the sore is cancerous and the extent of the cancer. While lip cancers are highly treatable, an individual can reduce the risk of developing lip cancer by not using tobacco products, limiting heavy alcohol use and wearing sunblock on the lips.