Breast cancer

02 October 2006

Women not ready for cancer cost

South African women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer and yet most have not prepared for the financial impact of the disease.

South African women have a one in eight chance of developing breast cancer and yet most have not prepared for the financial impact of the disease, according to a press release from Discovery Life.

Dr Sally Phillips, Chief Medical Officer of Discovery Life, says that breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in females and urges women to be financially prepared for the possibility of getting the disease.

“It’s the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women after colon cancer, and the lifetime risk for women is one in eight with the disease most prevalent in women between the ages 40 and 50. Breast cancer accounted for 0.5% of all deaths in SA between 1997 and 2001 and 0.4% since then," she said.

Regular testing advised
“Risks of breast cancer occurring are real and monitoring programmes should be done regularly, which means mammograms yearly after age 40 if at risk - which means a history of breast cancer in a first degree female relative or a history of previous suspicious lumps - or every two years if not. Self examination is also vital as nine out of ten lumps are self diagnosed,” she said.

South African cancer statistics from 2000 show that 5 537 women were diagnosed with cancer and 43% of those died. Discovery Life’s statistics show that 45% of all Severe Illness Benefit claims are for cancer with 26% of these being made up of breast cancer.

US studies show an increased incidence in the 50-64 year age group and an increased risk in economically developed countries – there has been a 45% increased incidence from 1975 to 2002.

“Encouragingly, Stage 1 - when cancer is confined to a small area within the breast and has not spread anywhere else in the body- has a five-year survival rate of 98%. For Stage 4 (cancer spread throughout the body) this drops to 54%,” she said.

Takes toll on lifestyle
Dr Phillips points out that although many women know how important self-examination is to catch the disease early, they don’t know the consequences of the inevitable financial lifestyle changes such as increased time off work, providing care for kids and paying a driver.

“Dread disease life cover will make certain the costs of treatment are fully funded as expensive and long-term treatment is often prescribed. But women should be wary of policies that pay out only when they are unable to do their jobs," she said.

“Don’t get caught out by this – sound cover should pay out 100% disability for stage 4 cancer so that a sufferer doesn’t have to work and can focus purely on treatment – many policies require you to be unable to do your own job before they pay out disability. With stage 4 cancer, it is often possible to work in between treatments,” according to phillips.

Dr Phillips advises that before signing up for cover people should ensure their policy offers case management.

“This is a service that goes beyond just paying out a lump sum of money - it offers psychological counselling (to the sufferer and family) and diet and exercise advice to assist people manage and recover from the disease. – (Discovery Life)

Source: Press release from Discovery Life

Read more:
Breast Centre
Medical schemes Centre

October 2006


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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