Advanced Oral Cancer Screening in San Francisco

 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%.

 Relative Oral Cancer Risk by Patient Profile

As is the case with most cancers, age is the primary risk factor for oral cancer.  Approximately 90% of oral cancer victims are age 40 and older, recent studies indicate that increasingly, patients younger than age 40 are being diagnosed with oral cancer.   Though  tobacco and alcohol use are the primary lifestyle risk factors that contribute to the development of  oral cancer, 25% of oral cancer victims do not use tobacco or alcohol, and have no lifestyle risk factors. Oral cancer affects men more than women, 2:1, but oral cancer in women is on the rise nationwide.

 Statistics, facts and famous victims

 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. 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 for oral cancer has increased by 5.5% and the death rate has increased by 1.5%.
  • The death rate in the Unites States for oral cancer is higher than that of cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, cancer of the brain, liver, testes, kidney or ovarian cancer.
  • More than 30,000 Americans will receive an oral cancer diagnosis this year. In five years, less than 57% will still be alive.
  • 8,000 Americans will die each year of oral cancer.
  •   27% of oral cancer victims do not use tobacco or alcohol and have no other lifestyle risk factors.

Oral cancer is far too often detected in late stage development -- the primary reason for the high death rate.  Oral cancer can have potentially disfiguring effects on patients, seriously compromising their quality of life.  Early detection of abnormalities can make a large difference in life expectancy; oral cancer is 90% curable when found early. Unfortunately, 70% of oral cancers are diagnosed in the late stages, and 43% of those diagnosed will die within five years.

Famous Victims 

Oral cancer has touched the lives of many people; however some of the better known oral cancer victims may surprise you.

  1. Babe Ruth
  2. Sigmund Freud
  3. Jack Klugman
  4. Aaron Spelling
  5. Alan King
  6. Humphrey Bogart  
  7. Lana Turner
  8. Eddie Van Halen
  9. Rod Stewart
  10. Bill Blass
  11. Burl Ives
  12. Sammy Davis, Jr.
  13. John Prine
  14. Jim Thorpe
  15. Mary Wells
  16. George Harrison

 Importance of early detection
Early detection is the key to reducing the devastating impact of oral cancer on victims and their families. Annual oral cancer screening of patients at increased risk for oral cancer, patients age 18 and older, and tobacco users of any age, is the only way to achieve the early detection of oral cancer necessary to reduce the death rate of oral cancer – a death rate that has remained unchanged for more than 40 years!

The chart below shows how the death rates of other types of cancers have dropped with routine visual/manual screening examninations followed by annual examinations with an adjuctive screening technology. As you can see, when patients at increased risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer and cervical cancer began receiving annual screenings with the mammogram, PSA test and Pap smear, respectively, there was a significant decline in the death rates due to these cancers.

 Diagnosis and Treatment
The following links are intended for those who have been diagnosed with oral cancer and are seeking information and support resources.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has written this booklet to help people with oral cancer and their families and friends better understand this disease. The link below describes symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. It also has information about rehabilitation and about sources of support to help patients cope with oral cancer. 

Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer (SPOHNC) is a patient-directed, self-help organization dedicated to meeting the needs of oral and head and neck cancer patients. 

The Yul Brynner Head and Neck Cancer Foundation 

Cancer Terminology Dictionary - A comprehensive dictionary of terms which will assist you in understanding terms that your doctors may use in relationship to cancer. Part of the National Cancer Institute website.

Additional Resource LinksGovernment Organizations

FDA Cancer Tools 
FDA Cancer Tools contains a variety of information related to cancer and approved cancer drug therapies.

The National Cancer Institute 
NCI Public Inquiries Office
Building 31, Room 10A03
31 Center Drive, MSC 2580
Bethesda, MD 20892-2580

National Health Information Society 
Referral Specialist
P.O. Box 1133
Washington, DC 20013-1133
The National Health Information Center (NHIC) is a health information referral service. NHIC puts health professionals and consumers who have health questions in touch with those organizations that are best able to provide answers.

National Oral Health Information Clearing House 
1 Nohic Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3500
A service of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, they provide resources and a variety of health-related materials and educational resources that fall outside the scope of more technical, research-based collections. It has a strong patient education focus and highlights materials such as fact sheets, brochures, videocassettes, newsletter articles, catalogs, and other educational resources for patients and professionals.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research 
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892-3500
The mission of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is to promote the general health of the American people by improving their oral, dental and craniofacial health. The NIDCR aims to promote health, to prevent diseases and conditions, and to develop new diagnostics and therapeutics.

National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship 
1010 Wayne Ave. Ste.770
Silver Spring, MD 20910
301-650-9127 or 877- NCCS-YES
NCCS brings together cancer-related research organizations and institutions, cancer support and advocacy groups, and thousands of cancer survivors to work together in addressing the needs of those living with cancer.

SEER Program 
The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute is the most authoritative source of information on cancer incidence and survival in the United States. Case ascertainment for SEER began on January 1, 1973.
The SEER Program currently collects and publishes cancer incidence and survival data from 11 population-based cancer registries and three supplemental registries covering approximately 14 percent of the US population. The expansion registries increase the coverage to approximately 26 percent. Information on more than 3 million in situ and invasive cancer cases is included in the SEER database, and approximately 170,000 new cases are accessioned each year within the SEER catchment areas. The SEER Registries routinely collect data on patient demographics, primary tumor site, morphology, stage at diagnosis, first course of treatment, and follow-up for vital status. The SEER Program is the only comprehensive source of population-based information in the United States that includes stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis and survival rates within each stage. The mortality data reported by SEER are provided by the National Center for Health Statistics.

 Velscope 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 Velscope examination. Dentists that offer ViziLite Plus exams to their patients want their patients to receive the highest quality standard of care available.

Dental Insurance

The American Dental Association has established a dental insurance procedure code that applies to the Velscope exam. This code is the CDT-5 D0431 code. Your dental plan may cover this procedure and both you and your dentist may not be aware of it.

Medical Insurance

Your medical insurance company may also cover the Velscope exam.  There are medical insurance codes that have also been used to obtain insurance reimbursement for the Velscope 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”.  You can submit medical claims to your medical insurance company.  Your medical insurance company can provide you with a claim form.

MSA/HSA Option

Medical Spending Accounts or MSAs, if offered by your employer, are an excellent option to use for reimbursement of your Velscope  examination. Healthcare Savings Accounts, HSAs, can also be an option for reimbursement of your annual velscope exam. In any case, be sure to get documentation of the Velscope exam from us and submit a copy of this, along with your receipt, for reimbursement.

What if my claim is denied?

The California Center for Aesthetic Dentistry and dr.Levi 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.  Simply download the letter by clicking on the link bellow (or request a letter by calling us at (415) 433-4337), add your information to the letter, and forward it to your insurance company.

Other important considerations

It is also strongly recommended that you communicate to your employer the importance of the Velscope examination.  Then ask whether your employer's dental and/or medical benefits cover the Velscope 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.  If you prefer to send a letter to your employer, click on the link bellow  to download a letter template, add your information, and then forward to your employer.


Velscope Patient Appeal Letter.doc
Velscope Employer Appeal Letter.doc