IMPROVEMENTS in lifestyle sometimes come at a cost. We are seeing more and more people succumbing to the so-called diseases of affluence - like heart disease and cancers.
One in seven women will contract breast cancer, says the American Cancer Society. But 95percent of them will survive the illness if it is detected early.
Dealing with breast cancer is a traumatic enough. The last thing a woman wants to worry about is the financial impact of her illness.
"Medical costs of treatment can be astronomical and might not be covered in their entirety by a medical scheme," says Old Mutual brand development manager Sylvia Walker. "A mastectomy (removal of the breasts), chemotherapy and reconstructive surgery could cost up to R500000. This is a heavy financial burden to bear."
Breast cancer research makes new advances every year, but there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the cause of the illness. It is impossible to predict whether you will get it or not.
Treatment ranges from lumpectomy (where the lump is removed), to mastectomy or the removal of lymph glands. Radiation or chemotherapy may be part of the treatment.
"Our only weapon in the fight against breast cancer is early detection. Women should do regular self-examinations, and go for regular medical check-ups," Walker says.
"The inconvenience of a check-up is far less than the stress of being diagnosed with breast cancer at an advanced stage.
"It is sensible to invest in severe illness cover, which will pay out a lump sum on diagnosis and ease the financial burden."
With the majority of breast cancer patients being over 50 years old, the disease is often viewed as an older women's disease, but women in their 20s and 30s are diagnosed on a daily basis.
You can select to have cover for your entire life because the older you get, the greater your chances of contracting breast cancer.
The financial implications of contracting a disease such as breast cancer can be vast. There are two main financial aspects to consider: the cost of treatment and the loss of income while recuperating.
l Cost of treatment: can amount to as much as R500000 in the first year, not to mention post-cancer medication.
Many people do not know what their medical scheme covers, and only find out when a claim is rejected!
Schemes case-manage for a condition such as breast cancer, and may impose limits for certain types of treatments. It is critical to understand what treatment your scheme covers, and what the benefit limits are.
l Loss of income while healing. With a disease such as breast cancer, the patient may be away from work for prolonged periods - if she works for a small firm the chances are slim that they can afford to keep her on. If she is self-employed, no work means no pay.
Walker adds: "The bottom line is that proper financial planning, which incorporates severe illness cover, can prevent economic catastrophe. We cannot predict the future, but we can sleep easier knowing that we are financially prepared".
lThe writer works for Old Mutual South Africa