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Counting the cost of breast cancer

Breast cancer feature image

South Africa bears a heavy cancer burden. Research from the Global Burden of Disease shows that 115,000 South Africans were diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

Breast cancer is by far the most commonly diagnosed cancer in South African women across all races. According to CANSA, one in 28 South African women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.

Early detection saves lives

With advances in oncology care and the ability to detect breast cancer at an early stage, more women are surviving the critical illness, but the reality is that treatment comes at an exorbitant cost.

According to the SA Health Review, 8,230 incidents of breast cancer cases were recorded in South Africa in 2014, with insurers paying out large sums to those who claim for associated medical expenses.

“These statistics emphasise the importance of having adequate cover in place,” says Felix Kagura, Head of long-term insurance propositions at Standard Bank Group.

“If you have existing protection, it is critical to check your claim criteria to ensure that you are covered for breast cancer treatment.”

Can you cope?

If you are without cover, or find that you are not covered adequately, Kagura advises taking time to investigate insurance products that are designed to provide critical illness or cancer cover.

“Some of these solutions offer certain benefits that extend beyond cost savings. Further to that, there is specialist cover available for critical illnesses like breast cancer.”

The reality is that a woman is never too young or too healthy to take out cover. If you are unprotected, and your health situation changes, it becomes difficult or impossible to get the cover needed.

When taking out cover, it is of the utmost importance to provide information required in the application that is honest and accurate.

“If what is disclosed is subject to dispute, a person who claims for treatment may be denied due to this oversight,” explains Kagura.

Improve your survival rate

The reality is that breast cancer treatment can sometimes take a number of years to complete. During this time, a patient will be unable to receive income due to absence from the workplace.

Early diagnosis of breast cancer is key to increasing chances of survival. According to the SA Health Department, about 90% of patients survive for longer after diagnosis when breast cancer is detected at an early stage.

Unfortunately, however, access to screening is not widely available to the population. In a 2018 paper, the SA Journal of Radiology highlights that there is a desperate shortage of radiology services in the public sector and, as a result, most women do not have access to mammography screening.

It is anticipated that with the introduction of a National Health Insurance, that this situation will change. In the meantime, Standard Bank strongly advises South African women to consider medical cover that allows them to visit a doctor for regular check-ups.

“The idea of contracting a critical illness is not something one wants to think about. However, with the high risk of breast cancer among South African women, it is important to speak to your financial advisor to ensure you are covered for dreaded disease and disability so that you can increase chances of life after illness,” concludes Kagura.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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