Cancer and cardiovascular conditions accounted for most of the R4.46 billion in claims paid out by Liberty last year.

The statistics, which were released this week, show that cancer accounted for 16% of all claims for Millennials, 21% for what Liberty terms “young parents”, 26% for “established providers” and 25% for “empty nesters”. The top three cancers were breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer. 

Henk Meintjes, Liberty’s head of risk product development, says strokes or central nervous system disorders also contributed to the total claims paid out last year.

“Cancer remains the leading cause for claims, at 24.3%, followed by cardiac and cardiovascular conditions, at 19.8% of all claims.” 

Last year, Statistics South Africa data showed that cardiovascular disease, hypertensive disease and other forms of heart disease were among the top five causes of death among women in 2015.

The Association for Savings and Investment South Africa reported that more than 60% of critical illness claims by women last year were a result of cancer.

Deon Theunis, the head of distribution support at Sanlam, says the full picture of the cost of cancer emerges only once you understand these expenses and know what your policy does and does not cover.

“It’s also vital to understand the extent of the additional expenses that aren’t directly related to treatment,” he says.

Liberty’s claims statistics show that in Gauteng, 25% of claims were related to cancer, while 18% were for cardiovascular diseases. In the Western Cape, cancer accounted for 30% of claims, while cardiovascular diseases accounted for 18%. In KwaZulu-Natal, 26% of claims were due to cardiovascular diseases, while cancer accounted for 20%.

An editorial in the SA Medical Journal says new-generation immunotherapy drug Ipilimumab costs R1 million and Trastuzumab costs R25 000 per treatment. A mastectomy plus Trastuzumab costs R500 000, and immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma costs R1m.

Cancer products on the market include:

• Sanlam’s Severe Illness Cancer Benefit, which covers you for cancers and related illnesses.

• AIG Cancer Care plan, which pays out a lump sum for cancer-related reconstructive or removal surgery. In addition, the lump sum is payable on the diagnosis of the illness,  excluding skin cancer.

• Clientèle’s cancer plans, which pay out up to R300 000 in cash in the event of a cancer diagnosis. The range includes a plan specially designed for female cancers.

Dr Thabani Nkwanyana, Liberty’s medical officer, suggests you make the following changes to your lifestyle to reduce the risk of getting cancer and other dread diseases:

• Stop smoking;

• Limit your alcohol intake;

• Maintain a healthy weight.

• Keep stress to a minimum; and

• Be active and eat healthy food.

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