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Financial Planning

Breast cancer in women

On the whole women, even well-educated women, are notoriously poor purchasers of insurance – whether that is for life policies including dread disease, health, or even in terms of investments and retirement annuities.

Considering that women are often required to be financially independent out of necessity, it is imperative that they have their own benefits in place in case there is a change in their health. If you look at any group of female friends, few will have insurance policies in place. However, when you consider the likelihood of this group developing cancer, they are the very people who need it.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of death from that disease, worldwide. This is in spite of the remarkable advances over the last 20 years in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer.

With a 1 in 8 lifetime incidence of breast cancer, it is by far the most common cause of cancer among women. It should be noted, however, that while the incidence of breast cancer is on the rise globally, the overall mortality rate is steadily decreasing especially in western countries. This is due, in part, to changes in hormone profiles and reproductive choices, the fact that a diagnosis can be made earlier due to mammograms, and that treatment is proving more effective.

While this means that more women can survive the disease, it is often with a financial burden that can take years to recover from.

Breast cancer benefits on dread disease policies

The staging of breast cancer is clearly defined in international standards. The Standard Critical Illness Definitions Project (SCIDEP) launched by the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA) in September 2009 has included stage 1 cancer in the definitions.

The project has allowed a degree of standardisation in the definitions of cancer in order to improve consumer awareness and transparency for insurance companies. The aim is to minimise any confusion regarding definitions and payouts.

In many cases, dread disease benefits only cover breast cancer beyond cancer-in-situ (stage 0) – this is where the cancer has not spread to adjacent tissue. This is because of the excellent survival rate for stage 0 breast cancer, which is in the range of 99-100% over a 5-year period. However, to compensate women for the emotional distress and psychological impact of this treatment, many companies also have a benefit for mastectomy.

Although dread disease cover is not intended as a replacement for a medical aid, there may still be a deficit between medical aid coverage and the actual cost of any cosmetic procedures to lessen the psychological impact, towards which dread disease benefits can contribute.

Mortality rates for breast cancer have diminished significantly over the years with early diagnosis and advanced treatments available. The survival rate for stage I breast cancer is 95% – 100%, over a five year survival rate. The rate for further stages diminishes from 86% for stage II, 57% for stage III, to 20% for stage IV. At these stages the further benefits paid will help towards covering lifestyle changes which may be necessary.

Various types of dread disease policies are currently available, depending on the company chosen, and each type has advantages and disadvantages. For instance, if a core dread disease policy is in place then a full lump sum could be paid out even on a very early diagnosis of the cancer; however, it is important to note that this may leave you with no residual benefit for any other dread disease which may later develop.

If a tiered benefit is purchased, then stage I cancer is often the earliest stage of cancer for which a benefit is payable. As the prognosis is excellent and there is a lesser impact on overall lifestyle, paying out a stage I severity claim allows the remainder of the benefit to remain intact and to grow for future benefits for the same or other dread disease categories. Should the cancer recur, then the claim is reassessed and further benefits paid.

It must be remembered that even though a woman may have breast cancer, she may not necessarily be considered disabled by an insurer and therefore the disability benefit may not pay out.

Breast cancer claims on dread disease policies

Generally speaking, across the industry, 50% of all dread disease claims are for cancer whilst 30% are for cardiac, 10% for stroke and 10% for other.

The severity of the disease amongst claimants, including how many claims on dread disease lead to death claims:

There is a general paucity in the insurance industry of specific data regarding dread disease and death claims due to cancer. What is consistent according to reassurance discussions is that cancer is by far the highest cause for claim amongst women of all ages and approximately one third of these will be for breast cancer.

Many of these will be in women under 50 years who still have dependants at home; however, the importance of having whole-of-life dread disease benefits cannot be overstated as 70% of cancers develop in women of over 65 years old. Other cancers such as colon/rectum and lung/bronchus are also significant causes of claim.

The effect of proper treatment on death claims

Cancer death rates are dropping worldwide, clearly due to the vastly improved medical and surgical techniques now available to women, provided that affordable, excellent health care and other benefits such as a good dread disease policy are in place.

The advantage of a dread disease policy is to help lessen the impact on the overall lifestyle changes of the policyholder and family members. Women in particular must be urged to review their financial planning and buy adequate dread disease in case of just such an eventuality.







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