Updated 04 April 2013

What can you do to protect yourself, and to cover yourself?

According to Cansa SA, each of us now has a one in four chance of contracting cancer in our life time and up to 90% of these cancers are caused by environmental factors.


I have a friend who was in the process of coming back to SA from having emigrated a few years ago (it’s a long story). He had been here for a few months and had not yet got onto a medical aid when he noticed a lump. Turns out that it is a tumour and according to the surgeon the only way of conclusively determining whether it is benign or malignant is to remove it. 

Problem is that it will cost about R60,000 to do this. So it’s back overseas to see if he can get the surgery done under his new home country’s state medical scheme. (I don’t think he even considered the SA state scheme or the fact that the Groote Schuur Oncology Department has an outstanding reputation and is for people who are not on medical aid). 

I also heard, in the last two months, of another two friends being diagnosed with cancer, one case much more serious and life threatening than the other… 

According to the Cancer Association of SA (Cansa), each of us now has a one in four chance of contracting cancer in our life time and up to 90% of these cancers are caused by environmental factors

On top of this, the statistics from the Heart & Stroke Foundation also show that 33% of men and 25% of women will have a heart condition by the age of 60. They suggest that:

  • 1 in 3 men and 1 in 4 womenwill develop a heart condition before the age of 60
  • 17.1 million people die globally every yearfrom heart disease and stroke
  • 33 heart attacks and 37 heart failures occur daily in South Africa (two men die for every woman)
  • 60 strokes occur in South Africa every day
  • Over 195 people die per day in South Africa due to cardiovascular disease. That’s 13 taxi loads of people. 

At least 80% of premature deaths from heart disease and stroke could have been avoided if the main risk factors, tobacco, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, were controlled. 

Apart from trying to live a healthy life and control what you can, what would you do if you got cancer or had a heart attack/stroke? Some questions to ponder: 

  1. Are you a member of a medical aid/hospital plan
  2. What does it cover for these conditions? 
  3. Is there a history of any of these conditions in your family which would put you in a higher risk category? 
  4. Have you had a recent medical check-up? (Early diagnosis is often critical.) 
  5. Do you have any insurance cover that would pay out at any of these events? According to research published in 2010, South Africans tend to be under-insured 

Severe illness (also known as dread disease) cover is the best form of insurance for these conditions and the “big four” (heart attack, cancer, stroke and coronary artery bypass graft) are responsible for between 75% and 90% of all claims under this benefit. If you want/need this cover, you can get it on its own – you don’t need to have life cover or any other benefit on the policy. 

You can read more about these products on most of the insurance company websites or speak to your financial planner if you want more information.

(Gregg Sneddon, Health24, April 2011)


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