Peace of mind

Oct 18 2012 07:24

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Breast Cancer


ABOUT one in eight SA women fall prey to breast cancer disease at some stage in their lives.

And if any further reason were needed to encourage women to have regular breast check-ups, consider the fact that direct treatment costs can be as much as R500 000 in the first year, followed by post-cancer medication for five years. 

Any cancer diagnosis is a shock, but breast cancer can be especially traumatic. As breast cancer has one of the highest survival rates of all the potentially fatal cancers with early detection – more than 90% – many survivors will tell you that the financial implications is often underestimated. 

The stress of financial pressure can hamper the healing process. But proper financial planning, which incorporates severe illness cover, can prevent the situation.

Sylvia Walker, market development manager at Old Mutual, says that the focus on awareness of the disease and the need for regular medical examinations is good, but there’s little emphasis on how its costs can affect our lives.

“There are still many unanswered questions around this disease, but one thing is certain – it can’t be prevented, but the risk factors can be minimised, and the prognosis can be good. 

“Thanks to advances in medical science, the outlook for breast cancer patients has improved,” says Walker. 

“The earlier the disease is detected, the greater the survival rate.  However, survival often comes at a huge financial cost,” she warns.

The first financial defence is to belong to a good medical scheme.  However, many people do not know what their medical scheme covers, and only find out when their claim is rejected.  So it’s critical to understand the benefits offered by your scheme, and what shortfalls in medical expenses one may face.

Walker says: “It’s also important to consider the loss of income while recuperating. 

"You may need weeks or even months off work while receiving treatment.  How will you replace your income during this period, and also, what happens when you are ready to return to work?”

If you work for a small firm they may need to replace you when you fall ill.  If you are self-employed, you’d lose income when you can’t work.  If you’re a housewife someone would have to be employed to help with your activities at home, as well as take care of you.

Many companies offer severe illness cover.  In some instances there are maximum age limits for when benefits pay out, and for the severity of the illness.  It’s important to have cover for as long as you’re alive, and to have a cash payout on diagnosis, irrespective of the severity of the illness. 

Walker says: “With breast cancer, your risk of contracting  the disease increases exponentially as you grow older, so it makes no sense to select a product that will stop providing you with cover at a time when you most need it.”

With the majority of breast cancer patients being over 50, the disease is often viewed as an older woman’s disease, but there are scores of cases of women in their 20s and 30s being diagnosed on a daily basis. So it’s crucial to have regular breast examinations, which allow early diagnosis and vastly increase the chances of survival.

Peter Bond, Old Mutual’s chief medical officer, explains that lifestyle plays a crucial role in the promotion of breast cancer: “The hereditary factor is probably the most well-known risk factor. 

"But a weight gain of 10kg throughout a woman’s life markedly increases her risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. So does excess use of alcohol, high fat content diets and cigarettes,” says Bond.

Breast cancer research is making new advances every year, but there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the disease.  It is simply impossible to predict whether you will get it or not, but you can, with planning, predict your financial health.

cancer  |  healthcare



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