According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), breast cancer is a prevalent issue in South Africa, with 1 in every 27 women at risk of a diagnosis in their lifetime. It is the most common cancer among South African women, affecting an unexpectedly high number of individuals who are still economically active. This is particularly concerning as many of these women don’t have access to additional financial resources to help support themselves and their loved ones during this challenging time – especially given that many of these women are breadwinners in their households.
According to Joretha Bothma, Head of Product Development, Underwriting and Claims at Momentum Life Insurance, the financial burden associated with breast cancer can be substantial; encompassing medical fees and treatments and loss in income due to missed workdays or reduced working hours. Even those fortunate enough to have medical aids may find their coverage insufficient to meet the full cost of treatment and the associated care needed. She emphasises the importance of women exploring their options now in order to secure their financial wellbeing should a diagnosis come.
“One cost effective way to achieve this is through critical illness cover and income protection,” advises Joretha. “These life insurance benefits provide a financial safety net that can assist with unexpected expenses associated with a serious illness, loss of income due to reduced working hours, or even help with the financial needs of supporting and caring for your loved ones (for instance childcare) while you are undergoing treatment.”
She explains that a critical illness benefit pays out a lump sum when the claims criteria of a qualifying condition such as breast cancer is met, while an income protection policy offers regular payments if you are unable to work for an extended period due to ill health. She notes that 53% of critical illness claims received by Momentum Life Insurance in 2022 for women were related to cancer. Among these critical illness cancer claims by women, 41% were specifically for breast cancer. Remarkably, 73% of these claimants were under the age of 60, indicating that they were potentially still in the workforce and economically active.
“While critical illness cover has gained importance over the years, the take up of this kind of cover is still not as prevalent as it should be. These benefits offer a lump sum payment, which can be used to cover additional financial costs and protect long-term savings, debt repayments and other expenses associated with treatment of a critical illness.”
While critical illness cover is essential, the same can be said for income protection. “Overcoming a cancer diagnosis already requires exceptional personal and emotional strength, so facing additional stressors like unexpected loss of income should be avoided as far as possible. The best way to safeguard yourself against this is to ensure that your income remains secure in case you are unable to work due to illness, injury, or disability.”
In addition, individuals should look at how they can reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes proper nutrition, regular exercise, stress management and avoiding excessive smoking or drinking.
“Prevention is the best cure, so it is essential to remind ourselves that we need to take care of our health. The younger we do this, the better off we’ll be. Early detection and then appropriate treatment plays an important role in surviving a critical illness such as breast cancer. Women should take care to go for annual screenings and mammograms. Monthly breast self-examinations also plays a big role to detect early signs of disease,” says Joretha.
“Eat well, manage your weight, exercise regularly, monitor your stress levels, and you may reduce your risk of developing cancer in the first place. However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk. Therefore, always ensure you have financial coverage for yourself and your loved ones just in case,” concludes Joretha.