Breast cancer treatment can cost around R500 000

By Staff Writer

It’s impossible predict whether you will get breast cancer but, with planning, you can predict your financial health say experts. While check-ups are vital it is equally important to ensure that you would be financially taken care of in the event of being diagnosed with breast cancer warns Old Mutual. The direct cost of treatment can be as much as R500 000 in the first year, followed by post-cancer medication for five years.  

 
About one in eight South African women get diagnosed with breast cancer and many survivors say that the financial implications are often underestimated. 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. “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.


Understand your medical cover


Walker explains  that 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.

 
She adds: “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.

 
Loss of income can be covered by 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,” says Walker.
 
It could happen at any age


The majority of breast cancer patients are over 50 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,” he explains.
 
 

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