Diagnóstico

Las pruebas y procedimientos que se utilizan para diagnosticar cáncer de labio comprenden:

  • Exploración física. En la exploración física, el médico te revisará los labios, la boca, la cara y el cuello en busca de signos de cáncer. El médico te preguntará sobre tus signos y síntomas.
  • Extracción de una muestra de tejido para análisis. En una biopsia, el médico extrae una pequeña muestra de tejido para análisis de laboratorio. En el laboratorio, un médico que analiza tejidos corporales (patólogo) puede determinar la presencia de cáncer, el tipo de cáncer y el nivel de agresividad presente en las células cancerosas.
  • Pruebas de diagnóstico por imágenes. Se pueden realizar pruebas de diagnóstico por imágenes para determinar si el cáncer se ha diseminado más allá de los labios. Las pruebas de diagnóstico por imágenes pueden ser tomografías computarizadas (TC), resonancias magnéticas (RM) o tomografías por emisión de positrones (TEP).

Tratamiento

Algunos tratamientos para el cáncer de labio son los siguientes:

  • Cirugía. La cirugía se usa para extraer el cáncer de labio y un margen de tejido sano que lo rodee. Después, el cirujano reconstruye el labio para que el paciente pueda comer, beber y hablar normalmente. También se usan técnicas para minimizar las cicatrices.

    Si el cáncer de labio es pequeño, la cirugía de reparación suele ser un procedimiento simple. Si el cáncer de labio es grande, es posible que deban intervenir cirujanos plásticos y reconstructivos expertos para reparar el labio. La cirugía reconstructiva puede incluir colocar en el rostro el tejido y la piel de otra parte del cuerpo.

    La cirugía para el cáncer de labio también puede incluir la extracción de glanglios linfáticos cancerosos del cuello.

  • Radioterapia. La radioterapia utiliza rayos de energía potentes, como rayos X y protones, para destruir las células cancerosas. La radioterapia para el cáncer de labio puede usarse sola o después de la cirugía. Puede aplicarse solo en el labio o también en los ganglios linfáticos del cuello.

    La mayoría de las veces, la radioterapia para el cáncer de labio se realiza con una máquina de gran tamaño que dirige con precisión los haces de energía. Sin embargo, en algunos casos, la radiación puede aplicarse directamente en el labio y dejarse allí durante un lapso breve. Este procedimiento, llamado braquiterapia, les permite a los médicos usar dosis mayores de radiación.

  • Quimioterapia. La quimioterapia utiliza medicamentos potentes para destruir las células cancerosas. En el caso del cáncer de labio y en algunas ocasiones, la quimioterapia se combina con la radioterapia para aumentar la eficacia del tratamiento. Si el cáncer de labio es avanzado y se propagó a otras partes del cuerpo, es posible usar quimioterapia para reducir los signos y síntomas, y para que el paciente se sienta más cómodo.

Estrategias de afrontamiento y apoyo

A cancer diagnosis can change your life forever. Each person finds his or her own way of coping with the emotional and physical changes cancer brings. But when you're first diagnosed with cancer, sometimes it's difficult to know what to do next.

Here are some ideas to help you cope:

  • Learn enough about cancer to make decisions about your care. Ask your doctor about your cancer, including your treatment options and, if you like, your prognosis. As you learn more about cancer, you may become more confident in making treatment decisions.
  • Keep friends and family close. Keeping your close relationships strong will help you deal with your cancer. Friends and family can provide the practical support you'll need, such as helping take care of your house if you're in the hospital. And they can serve as emotional support when you feel overwhelmed by cancer.
  • Find someone to talk with. Find a good listener who is willing to listen to you talk about your hopes and fears. This may be a friend or family member. The concern and understanding of a counselor, medical social worker, clergy member or cancer support group also may be helpful.

    Ask your doctor about support groups in your area. Other sources of information include the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

Preparación para la consulta

Start by making an appointment with your family doctor if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. If your doctor suspects you might have lip cancer, you might be referred to a doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the skin (dermatologist) or a doctor who specializes in conditions that affect the ears, nose and throat (otorhinolaryngologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to take in all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help make the most of your time together. List questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For lip cancer, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • Can you explain what my test results mean?
  • Do you recommend any other tests or procedures?
  • What is the stage of my lip cancer?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What side effects are likely with each treatment?
  • How will treatment affect my daily life?
  • Which treatment options do you think are best for me?
  • How likely is it that I'll achieve remission with the treatments you recommend?
  • How quickly must I make a decision on my treatment?
  • Should I get a second opinion from a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that occur to you.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow time later to cover other points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?