Each year, the month of January is observed as “Cervical Health Awareness Month” in the United States. The campaign jointly sponsored by the American Social Health Association (ASHA) and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) is a special platform to raise awareness about how women can protect themselves from cervical cancer, HPV (human papillomavirus) and the importance of early detection. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common infection that spreads through sexual activity, and it causes almost all cases of cervical cancer. According to recent reports, about 79 million Americans currently have HPV. In fact, many people with HPV don’t know they are infected. It is estimated that more than 13,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. However, the disease is preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening (Pap and HPV tests). Treatment for this condition largely depends on the stage of the cancer and related health problems. Gynecologic oncologists administering treatment for this condition must make sure that the billing and coding for this condition are appropriately done on the medical claims. Proper medical coding is crucial for medical billing companies to ensure accurate documentation and reimbursement.
Cervical cancer primarily occurs in the cells of the cervix – the lower part of the uterus that connects to the vagina. Various strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) – a sexually transmitted infection, play a major role in causing most cases of cervical cancer. In most cases, HPV infections are asymptomatic and resolve on their own. On the other hand, some infections cause the cervix cells to change and these abnormal changes can eventually develop into cervical cancer. Early-stage cervical cancers show no specific symptoms. However, as the condition reaches an advanced stage, symptoms do develop which include – pelvic pain or pain during intercourse, vaginal bleeding after intercourse and watery bloody discharge (that may be heavy and have a foul odour).
The cervical health awareness campaign aims to make maximum number of people understand how they can reduce their risk of the disease. It emphasizes the need to undergo early cancer diagnosis and screening to receive better treatment. Screening does not detect cancer but looks for abnormal changes in the cells of the cervix. Without treatment, some abnormal cells can eventually develop into cancer. A wide range of diagnostic imaging tests like HPV DNA test (to determine whether an individual has any types of HPV), colonoscopy, CT scan, MRI, pelvic ultrasound and other types of blood tests will be performed to determine the stage of the cancer.
As per recommendations from the U.S Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), women aged 21-29 years should undergo screening every 3 years for cervical cancer. The frequency depends on the type of screening. The Pap smear test and HPV DNA test are the commonly used cervical cancer screening methods that will help detect the disease early. In addition, the USPSTF recommends any one of the following –
- screening for cervical cancer every 3 years, or
- screening for HPV every 5 years, or
- screening for both HPV and cervical cancer every 5 years
However, the USPSTF does not recommend screening for women below 21 years of age and for those who had adequate screening in the past (unless they have a high risk of cervical cancer). Medicare Part (B) covers screening for cervical cancer with HPV testing under preventive services. The coverage is allowed for asymptomatic female Medicare beneficiaries aged 30 to 65 once every 5 years in conjunction with a Pap test.
Gynecologic oncologists who provide treatment to cervical cancer patients are reimbursed for their services. While documenting this condition, physicians need to ensure that they include the diagnosis, screening tests and other procedures performed using the correct medical codes. Medical billing and coding services offered by reputable companies can help physicians use the correct codes for their medical billing purposes.
- Z12 – Encounter for screening for malignant neoplasms
- Z12.4 – Encounter for screening for malignant neoplasm of cervix
- Z12.9 – Encounter for screening for malignant neoplasm, site unspecified
- G0123 – Screening cytopathology, cervical or vaginal (any reporting system), collected in preservative fluid, automated thin layer preparation, screening by cytotechnologist under physician supervision
- G0143 – Screening cytopathology, cervical or vaginal (any reporting system), collected in preservative fluid, automated thin layer preparation, with manual screening and re-screening by cytotechnologist under physician supervision
- G0144 – Screening cytopathology, cervical or vaginal (any reporting system), collected in preservative fluid, automated thin layer preparation, with screening by automated system, under physician supervision
- G0145 – Screening cytopathology, cervical or vaginal (any reporting system), collected in preservative fluid, automated thin layer preparation, with screening by automated system and manual rescreening under physician supervision
- G0147 – Screening cytopathology smears, cervical or vaginal, performed by automated system under physician supervision
- G0148 – Screening cytopathology smears, cervical or vaginal, performed by automated system with manual rescreening
- P3000 – Screening papanicolaou smear, cervical or vaginal, up to three smears, by technician under physician supervision
As part of the National Cervical Health Awareness month, a wide range of events are coordinated to raise awareness, raise funds or campaign in the local community, college/university or hospitals. These events include – promoting/attending cervical cancer screening programs, distributing fact sheets, leaflets, posters and monthly newsletters to patients/students (that include information about HPV and cervical cancer prevention), using notice boards and intranets to share messages about cervical cancer prevention, hosting community events (such as walks/runs, education and fundraising events), giving presentations to local groups/organizations, and sharing individual stories about cervical cancer via various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and others.
Take active part in Cervical Health Awareness Campaign this January! Use this event to educate women about cervical health and the importance of undergoing timely screening and diagnosis to prevent the condition at an early stage.