About Oral Cancer
Most people are surprised to learn that one American dies every hour from oral cancer; a death rate that has remained virtually unchanged for more than 40 years. In fact, recent statistics published by the American Cancer Society indicate that while the incidence and death rates for cancers overall has decreased, the incidence of oral cancer has increased by 5.5% and the death rate has increased by 1.5%
Oral cancer is far too often discovered in late stage development, the primary reason for the consistently high death rate. Oral cancer treatment often results in disfiguring effects on patients, and can seriously compromise their quality of life. Early detection and diagnosis can make a tremendous difference in life expectancy; oral cancer is 90% curable when found in its early stages. Unfortunately, 70% of oral cancers are diagnosed in the late stages, III and IV, leading to a five-year survival rate of 57%.
THE DEADLY STATISTICS
- Every hour of every day, one American dies of oral cancer.
- The mortality rate associated with oral cancer has not improved significantly in the last 40 years.
- The death rate in the United States for oral cancer is higher than that of cervical cancer, Hodgkin's disease, cancer of the brain, liver, testes, kidney, or ovary.
- More than 30,000 Americans will receive an oral cancer diagnosis this year. In five years, only 57% will still be alive.
- 27% of oral cancer victims do not use tobacco or alcohol and have no other lifestyle risk factors.
Identafi is part of a comprehensive oral screening
Oral cancer is one of the most curable diseases when it's caught early. That's why the Identafi exam has been developed. Identafi uses technology that has proven successful in identifying soft tissue abnormalities in other areas of the body. An Identafi exam is particularly important if you are at increased risk for developing oral cancer.
The Identafi exam can help your dentist or hygienist identify abnormal tissue, that might develop into oral cancer.
An annual Identafi exam, in combination with a regular visual examination, provides a comprehensive oral screening procedure for patients at increased risk for oral cancer. The Identafi exam is painless and fast, and could help save your life.
Identafi is performed immediately following a regular visual examination
- First, you will be instructed to rinse with a cleansing solution
- Next, the overhead lighting will be dimmed.
- Then, your dental professional will examine your mouth using Identafi, a specially designed light technology.
Who should have an Identafi exam?
The American Cancer Society recommends that patients have a complete soft tissue examination (standard visual exam) at least once a year.
Identafi is used as part of an annual oral screening for patients at increased risk for oral cancer. Your dental professional may recommend an Identafi Plus examination more frequently depending on your individual risk factors.
Oral Cancer Risk by Patient Profile:
- Patients age 40 and older (95% of all cases)
- 18-39 years of age combined with any of the following:
- Tobacco use
- Chronic alcohol consumption
- Oral HPV infection
- Patients age 65 and older with lifestyle risk factors
- Patients with history of oral cancer
- Alcohol consumption of at least 1 drink per day (3 ounces of hard liquor, 4 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer)
Other risk factors:
- Human Papilloma Virus, particularly HPV 16/18
Benefits and Expectations
- At the conclusion of a Identafi exam, following a standard visual exam, you can be confident you have received the most comprehensive oral cancer screening available.
So, your Identafi exam is positive. Now what?
Important answers to questions about Identafi exams.
Q: What does it mean that my Identafi exam results were positive?
A: It means that during the visual portion of your oral exam, your health care provider saw something that didn’t look entirely normal.
Q: Is a positive Identafi result bad news?
A: Not necessarily. Identafi identifies oral abnormalities including serious abnormailites such as oral cancer. However, Identafi will also identify benign abnormalities. Your dental provider will first rule out trauma (cheek bites, food irritations, etc.) as a cause of the abnormality. You may be recalled for further evaluation. If, at the time of your re-evaluation, your dental provider is not 100% certain that the abnormality is benign, you will likely be referred to a specialist for further assessment.
Q: What causes a positive result on an Identafi exam?
A: For a description of how Identafi works, click here.
Q: What should I be doing until my next Identafi exam?
A: The first thing is, don’t worry over the first positive reading. You should continue to practice good health measures. Your mouth responds to positive lifestyle changes like avoiding cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, and alcohol. It’s OK to continue to eat the foods that you normally do; however, try to eliminate foods that can irritate and scratch the inside of your mouth, tongue, and cheeks – such as nuts or hard candies – until after your next exam.
Q: Where can I go to get more information about oral health issues?
A: Your health care professional is always an excellent source of information. In addition, you may want to visit the Oral Cancer Foundation website at www.oralcancerfoundation.org for more information.
Identafi Insurance Coverage
Your medical and dental insurance benefits should not dictate the standard of care that you receive from a dental professional. This is especially important for screening procedures, such as the Identafi examination. Dentists that offer Identafi exams to their patients want their patients to receive the highest quality standard of care available.
The American Dental Association has established a dental insurance procedure code that applies to the Identafi exam. This code is the CDT-5 D0431 code. Be sure to verify that your dentist has submitted a claim for this specific procedure and code. Your dental plan may cover this procedure and both you and your dentist may not be aware of it.
Your medical insurance company may also cover the Identafi exam. There are medical insurance codes that have also been used to obtain insurance reimbursement for the Identafi exam. These codes are CPT code 82397 for "chemiluminescent assay" and ICD-9 code, V76.42, which refers to a “special screening for malignant neoplasms, oral cavity”. Either you or your dentist can submit medical claims to your medical insurance company. Your medical insurance company can provide you with a claim form.
Medical Spending Accounts or MSAs, if offered by your employer, are an excellent option to use for reimbursement of your Identafi examination. Healthcare Savings Accounts, HSAs, can also be an option for reimbursement of your annual Identafi exam. In any case, be sure to get documentation of the Identafi exam from your dental office and submit a copy of this, along with your receipt, for reimbursement.
What if my claim is denied?
Our office has also prepared sample appeal letters for you to send to your insurance company in the event that your submission for reimbursement has been denied.
Other important considerations
It is also strongly recommended that you communicate to your employer the importance of the Identafi examination. Then ask whether your employer's dental and/or medical benefits cover the Identafi exam. Your input is very influential with your employer and could influence the coverage decisions that are made in conjunction with your employer's dental and medical insurance companies.
Leading Edge Dental Center
Michael A. Goone, DDS
4355 W. Howard Street
Skokie, IL 60076