March Awareness, Shedding Light on Colon Cancer and Accurate Coding!

Keisha Wilson CCS, CPC, CRC, CPB, CPMA, AAPC Approved Instructor

This article is in honor of all those who are currently battling colon cancer, those who have bravely fought but lost their lives, and the steadfast caregivers and families who have stood by their sides throughout their journey.

In the healthcare community, March marks a critical Colon Cancer Awareness Month observance. The World Health Organization (WHO), In 2020, more than 1.9 million new cases of colorectal cancer and more than 930,000 deaths due to colorectal cancer were estimated to have occurred worldwide. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancers in the United States for 2024 are About 106,590 new cases of colon cancer (54,210 in men and 52,380 in women), About 46,220 new cases of rectal cancer (27,330 in men and 18,890 in women). Colorectal cancer remains a significant health concern, impacting lives. This sobering statistic, derived from data provided by the American Cancer Society, underscores the urgency of raising awareness about this disease and the importance of early detection and intervention. Despite the prevalence of cancer diagnoses, the numbers have seen a decrease over the years, attributed to proactive screening initiatives and early detection efforts.

As we explore the complexities of colorectal cancer, it becomes evident that adequate documentation and accurate coding play pivotal roles in facilitating optimal patient care and management. In this article, we’ll explore the significance of March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and how meticulous documentation and coding practices contribute to combating this prevalent disease.

It’s a time to raise awareness about the risks, prevention, and early detection of this prevalent and potentially life-threatening disease. As we shine a spotlight on colon cancer this month, it’s crucial not only to emphasize the importance of screening and early diagnosis but also to underscore the significance of accurate documentation and coding in effectively managing and treating this condition.

Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. With such sobering statistics, ensuring timely and precise reporting of colon cancer diagnoses and treatments is paramount.

Diagnosis and Treatment Planning

Accurate documentation and coding are crucial in several aspects of colon cancer management. Per ICD-10-CM, To properly code a neoplasm, it is necessary to determine from the record if the neoplasm is benign, in-situ, malignant, or of uncertain histologic behavior. If malignant, any secondary (metastatic) sites should also be determined, coded and reported accurately.  Another part of accurate reporting is reporting overlapping sites. A primary malignant neoplasm that overlaps two or more contiguous (next to each other) sites should be classified to the subcategory/code .8 (‘overlapping lesion’) unless the combination is specifically indexed elsewhere.

Reporting a family history of a disease is also imperative to treating a patient with cancer. Per ICD-10-CM, family history codes are for use when a patient has a family member(s) who has had a particular disease that causes the patient to be at higher risk of contracting the disease. Family history codes may be used in conjunction with screening codes to explain the need for a test or procedure.

Colon cancer treatment isn’t “one size fits all.” Treatment plans are individualized based on various factors, including:

  • Stage and location of the tumor – Early-stage tumors might require less aggressive treatment compared to advanced or aggressive tumors.
  • Patient’s overall health – Age, general health, and other medical conditions influence treatment options and potential side effects.
  • Patient preferences and goals – Individual preferences regarding surgery, treatment intensity, and desired outcomes are considered during treatment planning discussions.

By considering these factors, treatment plans aim to maximize the chance of a cure by choosing the most effective treatment based on the cancer’s characteristics. They balance treatment effectiveness with minimizing potential side effects and improving quality of life, Ensuring the chosen approach aligns with the patient’s goals and values. Treatment for colon cancer often involves a multidisciplinary team of specialists, such as surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and others. They ensure the most appropriate action is chosen while minimizing unnecessary procedures or treatments.

Proper documentation of colon cancer diagnoses allows healthcare providers to develop appropriate treatment plans tailored to each patient’s condition. Clear and detailed documentation ensures that all relevant information, including tumor location, size, and staging, is accurately captured. 

Colon Cancer

  • C18.0 – Malignant neoplasm of cecum
  • C18.1 – Malignant neoplasm of the appendix
  • C18.2 – Malignant neoplasm of ascending colon
  • C18.3 – Malignant neoplasm of hepatic flexure
  • C18.4 – Malignant neoplasm of transverse colon
  • C18.5 – Malignant neoplasm of splenic flexure
  • C18.6 – Malignant neoplasm of descending colon
  • C18.7 – Malignant neoplasm of sigmoid colon
  • C18.8 – Malignant neoplasm of overlapping sites of colon
  • C18.9 – Malignant neoplasm of colon, unspecified

Rectal Cancer

  • C19 – Malignant neoplasm of rectosigmoid junction
  • C20 – Malignant neoplasm of rectum

Anal Cancer

  • C21.0 – Malignant neoplasm of anus, unspecified
  • C21.1 – Malignant neoplasm of anal canal
  • C21.2 – Malignant neoplasm of cloacogenic zone
  • C21.8 – Malignant neoplasm of overlapping sites of the rectum, anus, and anal canal
  • C21.9 – Malignant neoplasm of rectum, unspecified

Monitoring Disease Progression

Accurate coding enables healthcare providers to track the progression of colon cancer over time. By documenting changes in tumor size, metastasis, and response to treatment, clinicians can make informed decisions about adjustments to therapy and ongoing monitoring. Studies suggest that well-planned, individualized treatment plans for colon cancer can increase the chance of successfully eliminating cancer and improving long-term survival.

Therefore, extensive and meticulous treatment planning is a fundamental component of successful colon cancer treatment. It ensures personalized, coordinated, and effective care with better patient outcomes.


Accurate coding facilitates population-based research and public health surveillance efforts to understand trends in colon cancer incidence, prevalence, and outcomes. Reliable data on colon cancer cases are essential for informing public health policies, resource allocation, and cancer prevention strategies. As we observe Colon Cancer Awareness Month, let’s not overlook the critical role of accurate documentation and coding in combating this disease. By ensuring that every aspect of colon cancer care is meticulously documented and coded, healthcare providers can contribute to improved patient outcomes, more effective resource allocation, and a brighter future in the fight against colon cancer.

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