DaimlerChrysler (DCX) is the first major corporation in the U.S.
to attack one of the deadliest forms of cancer by offering a new Delta Dental benefit, the OralCDx brush biopsy, to its 400,000 UAW employees and family members, announced Thomas J. Fleszar, D.D.S., M.S., president and chief executive officer of the affiliated Delta Dental Plans of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. The benefit, effective immediately, is expected to prevent the development of oral cancer and improve the survival rates for those who develop the disease.
Each year, approximately 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer, and the disease claims as many lives as melanoma and more than cervical cancer. If found early, oral cancer can be cured, and if detected at the precancerous stage, oral cancer can be prevented.
Delta Dental Plan of Michigan (DDPMI), with its affiliated plans
in Ohio and Indiana, is one of the first dental benefits providers in
the nation to include the diagnostic tool as part of its standard
benefits and DaimlerChrysler is the first DDPMI employer group to
incorporate the benefit in its plan design.
"While our benefit programs have always covered traditional
scalpel biopsies, and continue to do so, the brush biopsy represents a breakthrough in the fight against oral cancer," said Dr. Fleszar.
"This simple, painless and inexpensive test will make a dramatic
difference in improving the five-year survival rate for oral cancer,
which has remained a dismal 57 percent for the past 40 years."
He added, "Further, it has the potential to significantly reduce
medical treatment costs. I applaud DaimlerChrysler and the UAW for their commitment to improving the health of DCX workers and
recognizing that an investment in oral health pays big dividends in
overall health, well-being and productivity."
"It is gratifying to see DaimlerChrysler lead the way with this
important benefit that will not only improve the oral health of its
employees and their families, but also has the real potential to save lives," said Raymond Gist, D.D.S., president of the 5,700 member Michigan Dental Association. "As part of the health care team, dental professionals play an early role in cancer control, and early detection is the key to reducing the incidence of this terrible
The brush biopsy is an important tool in cancer detection because it can catch oral cancer in its earliest stages or even before cancer can develop when cells look abnormal. Until the New York-based company, CDx Laboratories, Inc., developed the brush biopsy in 2000, scalpel biopsies of suspicious looking tissue were the only option for dentists and their patients. Too often, this is too late. Now, if dentists see unexplained red or white spots they feel need testing, they can use the tiny brush in the CDx kit to scrape cells from the spots and send them to the company's high-tech laboratory for analysis. Most of these spots are harmless. However, about four to five percent may be cancerous or precancerous, and can then be referred for additional diagnostic tests and treatment.
"More than 160,000 OralCDx brush biopsies have been performed in the U.S.," said Mark Rutenberg, CEO and president of CDx Laboratories.
"The test has already detected thousands of cases of unsuspected precancers and oral cancers at an early, more easily curable stage.
The painless detection of early oral cancer is now possible, and many patients will soon realize that by visiting their dentists regularly, they will not only be protecting their teeth and gums, but also their lives. We are confident that the brush biopsy will allow the dental profession to have a significant impact in reversing the dismal rognosis from oral cancer."
To date, the OralCDx brush biopsy has been used to detect more than 5,000 precancers and cancers saving hundreds of lives in the U.S. by identifying oral cancer at an early treatable stage. When caught early, oral cancer can be cured and patient survival rates can dramatically increase to 81 percent.
Delta Dental, DCX and OralCDx are cooperating on a year-long study of brush biopsy use and outcomes among the represented workforce. This will add to the body of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of the diagnostic tool and is expected to underscore the value of dental benefits.
"Since many people visit their dentists more often than their
primary physicians, dental professionals are in a unique position to
detect oral cancer because they routinely perform thorough
examinations of the mouth," said Dr. Fleszar. "In fact, a dental exam is important to an individual's health management because dentists are able to identify more than 120 diseases including HIV/AIDS, diabetes and anemia. At Delta Dental, we are committed to helping our members enhance their overall health by encouraging them to visit their dentist regularly."
Facts to Know About Oral Cancer
-- Each year, oral cancer claims as many lives as melanoma (skin
cancer) and more than cervical cancer.
-- About 8,000 Americans die from oral cancer each year.
-- Annually, 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer.
-- About 25 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer have
none of the traditional risk factors associated with the
disease, including smoking, tobacco chewing and drinking
alcohol. There has been an increase in the number of young
people and women developing the disease who do not have these risk factors.
-- Although there have been many medical advances for most
cancers, the five-year survival rate for oral cancer hasn't
improved in 40 years. It remains a dismal 57 percent because
the disease is often detected too late.
-- If found early, the survival rate goes up dramatically - to
-- Better yet, if found and treated at the precancerous stage,
oral cancer can be prevented.
-- Oral cancer is one of the most expensive cancers to treat with the average cost for treating an advanced case at an average $200,000.
Facts to Know About the Brush Biopsy Benefit
-- The OralCDx brush biopsy is a simple, painless diagnostic test used by dentists on harmless looking red or white spots that
could be potentially dangerous. It is expected to be used on
only about two patients per dental practice weekly.
-- The results are usually negative. Some results show
precancerous cells, which can be treated to prevent the
development of oral cancer. If results show cancerous cells,
the disease is caught early and the patient's prognosis is
-- Delta Dental conducted research on this relatively new test
and determined brush biopsy could be a key tool in reducing
occurrences of oral cancer and significantly improving
-- Delta Dental covers the dentist's fee to perform the brush
biopsy and collect the cell sample. Generally, the laboratory
fee is covered by the patient's medical plan.