With an objective to highlight the importance of breast awareness, education and research, the month of October is observed as “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM)” in the United States. The worldwide annual campaign aims to make as many people as possible to get involved in generating awareness and raising funds for breast cancer research (including its causes, diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure). Breast cancer is by far one of the most common cancers diagnosed in women in the United States (other than skin cancer) and the leading cause of death in women. This condition (which normally affects women above 40 years of age) occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally and divide more rapidly than healthy cells. These cells continue to accumulate, (forming a lump or mass) and may spread through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body. The American Cancer Society recommends that women should undergo breast cancer screening tests at an early age (right from their 50s or sooner). Undergoing regular screening programs/tests helps in early identification of symptoms so that the disease can be more effectively treated and prevented from spreading to other areas of the body. Oncologists or other specialists offering treatment for this condition need to ensure that the medical coding for breast cancer is also done appropriately on the medical claims. Since even minor coding errors can lead to claim denials, opting for billing services from a reliable and established medical billing company would be a practical solution.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), (2018 statistics) about 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and about 40,920 women will die from this disease. Reports from the National Breast Cancer Foundation suggest that about 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, with an average of one woman dying of the same condition every 13 minutes. The potential factors that increase the risk of this condition include – female, age, a personal/family history of breast cancer, exposure to radiation, obesity, postmenopausal hormone therapy and more.

Generally, breast cancer may not cause any symptoms in its early stages. However, in many cases, a tumor may be too small to be felt, but an abnormality can still be seen on a mammogram. Common signs and symptoms include – a breast lump or tissue thickening, breast pain/swelling, bloody discharge from your nipple, a nipple discharge, peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on your nipple or breast. To determine whether the symptoms are caused by cancer or a benign breast condition, physicians normally conduct a detailed physical examination along with a complete breast exam. Several diagnostic imaging tests like mammogram, breast ultrasound and biopsy (removing a sample of breast cells for testing) may be conducted to make a correct diagnosis of the condition.

Medicare Part (B) offers coverage for screening mammogram once in every 12 months (11 full months must have passed since the last screening) and diagnostic mammogram (when medically necessary) for women aged 40 years and older. Women aged between 35-39 years can get screened for baseline mammogram as well. Medicare also offers coverage for a clinical breast exam (CBE) once every 24 months for women at average risk of breast cancer.

Oncologists and other specialists providing treatment to breast cancer patients are adequately reimbursed for their services. The diagnosis, screening tests and other procedures must be carefully documented using the appropriate medical codes. Medical billing and coding services offered by experienced providers can help physicians use the correct codes for their medical billing purposes.

ICD-10 Codes

  • C50 – Malignant neoplasm of breast
  • C50.0 – Malignant neoplasm of nipple and areola
  • C50.1 – Malignant neoplasm of central portion of breast
  • C50.2 – Malignant neoplasm of upper-inner quadrant of breast
  • C50.3 – Malignant neoplasm of lower-inner quadrant of breast
  • C50.4 – Malignant neoplasm of upper-outer quadrant of breast
  • C50.5 – Malignant neoplasm of lower-outer quadrant of breast
  • C50.6 – Malignant neoplasm of axillary tail of breast
  • C50.8 – Malignant neoplasm of overlapping sites of breast
  • C50.9 – Malignant neoplasm of breast of unspecified site

The 2018 NBCAM campaign aims to encourage all Americans to become proactive in the crusade against this deadly disease. This includes seeking the advice of healthcare providers, getting appropriate cancer screening tests at the right time, knowing their family history and incorporating significant lifestyle changes that may reduce the possibility of breast cancer.

The NBCAM campaign was first observed in the US in 1985 as a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical division of Imperial Chemical Industries (maker of several anti-breast cancer drugs). The major objective behind this event was to encourage women to undergo mammography screenings at least once in 2 years to detect any specific abnormalities or tumors in the breast tissue early so that it can be treated more effectively.

Over the years, the focus of the campaign has widened with more number of organizations based in the US and other countries supporting this international health awareness campaign. With the founding of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in the year 1993, the “pink ribbon” was chosen as the official symbol for this awareness campaign.

Due to the increased focus and significance that the NBCAM campaign obtained, today this event is considered as a strong platform to generate funds for education and research to analyze the potential causes of breast cancer, its symptoms, treatment, prevention and further cure. A wide variety of events and activities including educational programs, displaying informational pamphlets and posters and fund-raising activities such as walks, runs, auctions, concerts, and other charity events are carried out throughout the month of October.

Celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Make an impact in your community by educating women about the need for undergoing screening for early detection and prevention of this condition.