What Is a Lip Biopsy?

A lip biopsy may be required to examine a lip lesion.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 August 2014
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A lip biopsy is a surgical procedure that involves taking a sample of tissue from the lip for analysis in a laboratory. There are a number of reasons why a lip biopsy may be requested. The procedure does not take very long and there are minimal risks to the patient, especially when it is performed by an experienced doctor. Results are typically available in around a week, unless there are special circumstances. When a lip biopsy is recommended, patients may want to ask why the procedure is being requested and what the possible outcomes are.

One common reason to request a lip biopsy is to investigate a lesion on the lip. If a lip develops a lesion that will not heal despite being given time and supportive therapy, a biopsy can be used to learn more about what is causing it. If a cancer is suspected, a biopsy can be used to stage and determine the source of the cancer. Biopsies can also be ordered in suspected cases of Sjogren's syndrome, to evaluate the salivary glands found in the lower lip. They can also be useful for diagnosis of some other conditions, such as sarcoidosis.

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In a lip biopsy, the patient will be seated and a local anesthetic is applied. The doctor will examine the lip to find the best site for a sample and will use surgical instruments to take some tissue and put it into a biopsy container so that it can be sent to the lab. The patient's lip will feel numb until the anesthetic wears off and the patient may experience some pain and soreness that can be managed with icing.

Patients are advised to avoid eating until the numbness resolves and they may want to eat bland foods that are easy to consume until the biopsy site heals. The oral mucosa heal very quickly, so the patient should recover in a week or less. The biggest risk is the potential for infection if the site is not kept clean. Usually normal oral hygiene is sufficient to prevent infection and allow the incision to heal.

Once the results come back, the doctor can discuss them with the patient. Negative results indicate that nothing abnormal was identified during an examination of the biopsied tissue. If the results are abnormal, the doctor can talk about the implications of the results and possible treatment options. These can include medications, another procedure to remove abnormal tissue, and topical preparations.

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Discuss this Article

anon946509
Post 12

I had a salivary gland biopsy done five days ago and I still have a lot of pain. I have four stitches inside my lower lip, down near the bottom and I'm still swollen and very sore. My lip and chin are also still numb.

I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and have been through quite a few procedures and surgeries in my life, but I have to say that I would never do this one again. It hurts to talk, it's hard to smile and I'm worried that I won't get feeling back from the still numb areas.

I would've thought that five days after having this done, the pain would be totally gone. I also have a white spot near one of my stitches that I will call my doctor about tomorrow. Bottom line: if you absolutely don't have to have this procedure done, don't.

anon943163
Post 11

I had a lip biopsy done four months ago. I still have a significant lump at the biopsy site. I am also experiencing lumpiness in other areas in my mouth. The worst thing is the numbness which I am afraid is going to be permanent. It was the worst experience of my life and I regret it every day.

anon355848
Post 10

Anon, don't worry. I'm a real coward, and had a lip biopsy five days ago. I can honestly say I didn't feel a thing after the numbing injection, and even that was no worse than a pin-prick. I was on cold drinks and soup for the first day, then various mushed stuff, but by day three could eat hummus on soft bread. I have stitches, but haven't needed any pain relief at all. I just rinsed regularly with salt water, cleaned teeth as normal (but carefully!) and used prescribed mouthwash.

The very worst part of the whole procedure was sitting next to a woman beforehand who'd just had it done and was telling someone about it in grisly detail. Don't listen to that kind of stuff. You'll be fine.

anon328455
Post 9

I have to have a lip biopsy done this week and from what I hear I am a wreck. I hope I can get through it. I wish it were over. To make matters worse, I need more tests next week for another reason.

wander
Post 8

For those of you that have had a lip biopsy, exactly how long did it take you to recover? Did you find that you had any trouble speaking normally after the procedure?

I am going to need a lip biopsy shortly and am concerned about the recovery time. I work as a teacher, so I speak quite a lot while I am at work and don't want to miss too many days off work. From what I have read so far it seems like I should expect to be out of commission just until the freeze wears off. I can handle a bit of pain, but as exams are coming up at my school I don't want to miss the preparations.

drtroubles
Post 7

My mother had a lip biopsy for a lesion on her lip and it actually went really well. She likened it to accidentally biting the inside of your mouth. She told me it stung quite a bit after the freezing wore off, but it eventually numbed out and started to heal.

Apparently using a simple salt water rinse in your mouth is a good way to help with a cut. The salt water is a natural disinfectant that can help keep germs at bay. Lightly swishing salt water in your mouth shouldn't hurt too much, but it is best to be cautious the first time you try it.

seHiro
Post 6

@Hawthorne - Good post -- people shouldn't be scared of lip biopsies, they're no big deal. They actually are pretty numbed when they do the cutting and stitches, and when the numbness wears off it only takes a day or two for the pain to pass. Really, getting a tooth pulled is far more painful, for a comparison.

I've had two lip biopsies done -- one when the doctor found lesions on my lip, and the second when he decided even though they weren't dangerous that they should be removed since they weren't going away on their own. I'm fully recovered now, and they're never come back!

gimbell
Post 5

@hanley79 - It sounds kind of iffy, I know, but the food you eat won't stay in the incision if you care for it properly. The human mouth washes itself out throughout the day by producing saliva -- that and helping to make food into a more digestible form while we chew is why it's there.

Just like the doctor will advise if you have any gum problems or tongue diseases or any other inside of the mouth issues, you should follow a few steps for daily care of the incision for the week after getting the lip biopsy:

1) Suck on ice to numb the pain (it's going to be sore and tender for a few days -- usually just one or two).

2) Rinse the mouth gently with warm water twice per day (morning and night works well, because it goes along with most people's tooth brushing routine).

3) As with any area with stitches, don't pull on or stretch the lip where the incision was made until the stitches come out. For people with a partner, this means you'll have to forego any kissing except for light pecks for about a week.

Hope that helps you out.

hanley79
Post 4

Ouch, it never occurred to me that biopsies could be done on your lips! The only kind of biopsy I had ever heard of before reading this article was that of any lumps found in a woman's breast that might indicate breast cancer. I guess it makes sense that a lip biopsy would be the version to check for cancer of the mouth.

From the sound of the article, they take the tissue from the inside of your lip, too, which seems like the worst to me. Forget infection -- how is it supposed to heal up if your eating gets food in the incision?

Hawthorne
Post 3

@sunshine31 - The article says that normal oral hygiene like tooth brushing and such is usully enough to prevent an infection, but since the human mouth is teeming with germs, I would advise rinsing your mouth daily with a hydrogen peroxide and water mixture mouthwash if you get a lip biopsy.

This is what I did when I had a gum biopsy, and I never had any problems with infection. Hydrogen peroxide is considered a safe mouthwash -- mix it with equal parts water to make it mild enough not to irritate the incision.

Bhutan
Post 2

@Sunshine31 -My aunt had to have a lip biopsy because the doctors detected that she had a lot of the symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome because she had trouble producing moisture in many parts of her body.

She really had a hard time swallowing and she lacked sufficient saliva in her mouth. This is what tipped her doctor off to the condition. Her eyes were also irritated due to the lack of tear development.

It was painful for her to get her lip biopsy for Sjogren's syndrome, but it was something that she had to do to find out if she had this condition because she could not continue on like this.

sunshine31
Post 1

I can’t even imagine how painful getting an oral biopsy must be. The skin around your mouth is so sensitive and unlike other parts of your body, you really have to come in contact with your mouth a lot throughout the day due to eating, drinking water or simply brushing your teeth.

I bet the risk of infection is really high in this area because it is a part of the body that is always in use.

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