Preventative examination: Detecting oral cancer in time

You or your dentist have discovered a suspicious spot in your mouth and you would like a precise clarification or a competent second opinion?

The diagnosis of oral mucosa diseases is an important task in oral and maxillofacial surgery and requires a conscientious approach. In our practice in Berlin Charlottenburg we can examine your oral cavity in detail for possible changes. In some cases – and also in consultation with your dentist or family doctor – Dr. med. Thomas Franke can perform a so-called biopsy for further clarification.

What exactly is oral cancer?

Mouth cancer – or cancer of the oral cavity – is a malignant tumour (a so-called carcinoma) that starts in the lining of the mouth and can develop on the lips, inside the mouth, in the back of the throat, on the tonsils of the throat or on the salivary glands. Mouth cancer can also develop on the tongue or at the base of the mouth, for example. But as long as it is small and localised, it is easier to treat.

Around 10,000 people in Germany get oral cancer every year.
Men are affected in three quarters of the cases. The disease most commonly occurs in men between the ages of 55 and 65, and in women between 50 and 75.

Why is oral cancer screening so important?

The earlier oral cancer can be detected, the better the prognosis for successful treatment.
The tricky thing about oral cancer is that it usually starts without symptoms and the person with it runs the risk of not taking the change seriously. If patients only go to a doctor when symptoms occur, for example when pain sets in, the cancer is often already advanced and the chances of a cure have unfortunately fallen. Tumours are generally easy to treat, as long as they are detected early.

What are the first signs of oral cancer?

Usually, changes in the oral cavity are detected by your dentist during regular check-ups. But you can and should also pay attention to changes in your oral cavity.

The first signs are changes in the lining of your mouth that do not appear to be healing, such as small wounds. At first, the changes usually feel painless and rough, raised or retracted and are often interpreted as a pressure point or bite mark. It is also possible that the lymph nodes in the neck are swollen.
After some time, other symptoms such as pain, fatigue, loss of performance, loss of appetite and unwanted weight loss can also occur.

Some of the first signs of oral cancer might include the following symptoms:

  • sores in the mouth that cannot be wiped or scraped off
  • Whitish greyish or reddish spots on the oral mucosa
  • Hardened, rough or hilly areas in the oral cavity
  • swelling in the mouth and/or a foreign body sensation
  • Pain that can radiate into the head
  • numbness on the tongue, lips or teeth
  • Loosened teeth
  • Increased salivation
  • Reduced mobility of the tongue
  • Difficulties in speaking
  • Uncomfortable feeling when wearing a dental prosthesis
  • discomfort when chewing or swallowing

If the complaints last longer than two weeks, please consult your dentist or us directly. We can closely examine the oral cavity and find out what is behind it.

What are the causes of oral cancer?

The development of oral cavity cancer is not clearly understood, but certain lifestyle habits can promote the development of oral cancer. For example, people who smoke regularly over a long period of time have a 30 times higher risk of getting oral cancer than non-smokers. Regular alcohol consumption, HPV infection or poor oral hygiene also increase the risk of getting oral cancer. However, people who do not meet any of these risk factors can also get oral cancer.

What happens at the screening test?

Dr. med. Thomas Franke can examine the oral cavity of patients very closely for possible changes in our practice in Berlin Charlottenburg. As a rule, the examination of the oral mucosa and the tongue is first carried out using a special mirror device. The lymph nodes on the lower jaw and neck are also palpated to detect possible enlargements. If necessary – and of course also in consultation with the respective dentist or family doctor – Dr. med. Franke can also carry out a so-called biopsy for a more precise clarification.

For this purpose, a sample of the mucous membrane is taken with local pain elimination. This is usually a short outpatient procedure. The sample is then specially marked by us and sent to experienced experts in pathology for further microscopic evaluation. All the necessary examination procedures for microscopic diagnostics are available to you, including any special procedures that may be required.

After about one week, the final result is available in our practice.
The findings will then be discussed and explained in detail with you in a personal appointment. Even if the result suggests further recommendations for action, Dr. med. Thomas Franke will discuss these in detail with the patient and will point out all treatment options.