Colorectal Cancer Awareness"National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month" is celebrated during the month of March in the United States. The 2015 annual campaign aims to generate widespread awareness about colorectal cancer, including the importance of early detection and screening.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States. Reports suggest that more than 135,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this disease and nearly 50,000 will die from the same in 2015.

The month of March was officially dedicated as "National Colon Cancer Awareness Month" by President Clinton in February 2000. This health event is a special platform to encourage people to learn about how to prevent the disease through a healthy lifestyle, early detection and regular screening.

Since 2000, this annual campaign has grown to become a rallying point for the colon cancer community wherein thousands of patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the country join together to spread awareness about this deadly disease by hosting seminars, wearing blue, holding fundraising and education events, and talking to friends about the need for screening.

CRC develops in the colon or the rectum. It is estimated that the lifetime risk of developing this condition is about 1 in 20 (5%) and this is somewhat lower in women than in men. The potential risk factors associated with this disease include family history or genetic factors, age, lifestyle related factors such as smoking, diet, physical inactivity, obesity or alcohol use. The main symptoms include unexpected weight loss, abnormal bowel habits, cramping or stomach discomfort, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and a feeling of weakness or fatigue. The nature and intensity of symptoms may vary from one person to another.

CRC is a treatable disease that often goes undetected due to lack of regular screening. In most cases, routine screening helps in finding the growth of small polyps and removing them before they become cancerous. Early detection of symptoms facilitates effective treatment resulting in high survival rates. The survival rates of persons diagnosed with early stage CRC is 90 percent, but is only 10 percent when diagnosed after it has spread to other organs. In 2014, the American Cancer Society and the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT) launched "80% by 2018" – a campaign in which they with several other organizations hoped to achieve the goal of getting 80% of Americans screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

Oncologists play a significant role in educating people about the debilitating effects of this disease and the importance of early treatment. These physicians recommend different screening tests such as colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, fecal immunochemical test (FIT), CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) and stool DNA test that will help detect the disease early.

Cancer physicians can advise patients about the various treatment modalities available for CRC and this may vary and depend upon the type and severity of symptoms. Oncologists are reimbursed for the services they provide to their patients. The diagnosis, tests and procedures have to be carefully documented using the correct medical codes.

Physicians use the following ICD codes for medical billing purposes

ICD-9 codes

  • V10.0 – Personal history of malignant neoplasm of large intestine (high risk screening code)
  • V10.06 – Personal history of malignant neoplasm of rectum, rectosigmoid junction, and anus (high risk screening code)
  • V12.72 – Personal history of adenomatous colonic polyps (high risk screening code)
  • V16.0 – Family history of malignant neoplasm of gastrointestinal tract (first degree relative-sibling, parent, child) (high risk screening code)
  • V18.51 – Family history, adenomatous colonic polyps (high risk screening code)
  • V76.41 – Special screening for malignant neoplasms of rectum
  • V76.51 – Special screening for malignant neoplasms of colon
  • V84.09 – Genetic susceptibility to other malignant neoplasm (not covered by all payers)

ICD-10 codes

  • Z12.11 – Encounter for screening for malignant neoplasm of colon

Let us observe colorectal cancer awareness month with all due seriousness! This event is surely a strong platform to educate the public about the need to undergo routine screening programs and identify the importance of early detection.