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Two people hold up their hands with a finger over their lips.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma on the Lip: What It Is and What It Isn't

Lipstick dries out my lips, and so I don’t wear it. But I do occasionally like to wear a tinted lip gloss. I’m not sure, though, if defining my lips is good or bad for my appearance. It shows that the outline of my lip is slightly uneven, due to a tiny squamous cell carcinoma that was removed by Mohs surgery, on the upper left lip.

To be sure, I might be the only one who notices this. I asked my daughter once and she couldn’t tell. But I can see it. Sometimes I put the lip gloss on and take it right off. The slight irregularity reminds me of the procedure that I had there. It was among the most difficult healing periods I had after Mohs surgery. The Band-Aid kept slipping off the lip, where it teeter-tottered, moving every time I ate or spoke.

Otherwise, though, the episode has gotten smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror as time passes.

Squamous cell carcinoma on the lip

It came to pass the same as all of my many squamous cell carcinomas. A tiny piece of flakey skin was the tell-tale sign. It was so long ago I don’t remember exactly how it played out. I imagine that I noticed it, rather than my dermatologist pointing it out on a skin check. It probably flaked, then fell off, then flaked again. I would have gotten a biopsy that showed it was a squamous cell carcinoma requiring Mohs surgery.

It turns out lip cancer is not skin cancer

I didn’t think of it as any different than my other skin cancers until I read that lip cancer is NOT technically skin cancer. It is actually considered a type of mouth (oral) cancer.1 Since your lip’s outer layer is skin, it doesn’t totally make sense. But when you think of your lip as being part of your mouth, then it does make sense.

Squamous cells on the lip

The Mayo Clinic explains: “Lip cancer occurs on the skin of the lips. Lip cancer can occur anywhere along the upper or lower lip but is most common on the lower lip. Lip cancer is considered a type of mouth (oral) cancer. Most lip cancers are squamous cell carcinomas, which means they begin in the thin, flat cells in the middle and outer layers of the skin called squamous cells.”1

Lip cancer risk factors include excessive sun exposure and tobacco use.1 I was never a smoker, so it could have been sun exposure.

My other head and neck cancer experience

My strange health history also includes dysplasia, or abnormal cells, on my tongue. This also fell into the head and neck cancer category and earned me a trip to the operating room where a surgeon took a scoop out of my tongue. I’ve had a lot of painful healing periods, and this was among the worst. The healing phase for the lip cancer was awkward, but it didn’t compare to the one after the surgery on my tongue.

When all is said and done, though, whatever category you put them in, they are both healed now, years later. And if the worst thing I have to say about the lip cancer is that my lip gloss is a little uneven, that is pretty good.

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