ICD-O-3.2: Specialized terminology in the spotlight

When systems don't include specialized terminology like ICD-O-3.2, you may be missing the specificity required to support key oncology care and research initiatives.
ICD-O

When it comes to clinical documentation, most in health IT – and healthcare as a whole – are familiar with the major players, like SNOMED CT®, ICD-10-CM, and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT®), to name a few. 

But there are also a host of more specialized, nuanced terminology sets that are equally as important. IMO’s insight brief, Beyond the basics: Specialized terminologies outside the acute care setting, takes a look at several of these terminologies and explains why having them in your electronic health record (EHR) and health IT systems matters.  

Keep scrolling for an excerpt from the insight brief or, to read the full brief, click the button below.  

ICD-O-3.2

What is it?

ICD-O-3.2 is a classification system associated with the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Classification of Diseases system that is specifically designed for use in oncology care. 

How or why is it used?

ICD-O-3.2 is primarily used to communicate information about the pathology of cancerous tumors. Specifically, it categorizes cancerous tumors according to shape and size – or morphology – and site – or topography. 

Why it matters

ICD-O-3.2 is an important tool for oncologists, researchers, and life science organizations that want to leverage information about the histology and site of a neoplasm or find all patients with similar cancer profiles. Today that information may be captured inconsistently in a variety of ways throughout the EHR. ICD-O-3.2 provides very specific granularity that is not captured in other classifications like ICD-10-CM. 


ICD-O plays a vital role in gaining oncological insights from specific patient data, offering a more comprehensive understanding of tumors compared to other code sets such as ICD-10-CM and SNOMED-CT® when it comes to matters like morphology, histology, and topography. These factors are crucial in order to grasp the severity of a patient’s condition and provide valuable insights for research and clinical trials.
Andrei Naeymi-Rad, VP of Corporate Strategy at IMO 


For example, if a researcher would like to find all the inflammatory carcinomas of the breast, she would find such information in the ICD-O-3.2 code. It allows for the inclusion of granularity in clinical descriptions – like the tumor’s stage, whether or not it is benign or malignant, and if it is a metastatic lesion. ICD-O-3.2 also allows research organizations like the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to track the prevalence of cancers and their corresponding survival rates in the United States. 

To learn more about the role of specialized terminologies in healthcare, download the insight brief: 

CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association. All rights reserved. 
SNOMED and SNOMED CT are registered trademarks of SNOMED International. 

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