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What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells in the breast gland. The cells acquire the capability to spread to other body parts through the bloodstream or lymph channels, continue to grow uncontrolled, and can ultimately kill the patient.

It is the most common form of cancer affecting South African women, and according to the World Health Organisation, it is the leading cancer killer among women aged 20 – 59 in high income countries.

What causes it?

There is no known single causative agent for breast cancer. However, several risk factors have been identified, including:

  • Inherited mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
  • a mother or sister with pre-menopausal breast cancer, or a father or brother with breast or prostate cancer
  • late age at first full-term pregnancy (over 30)
  • alcohol abuse
  • being overweight
  • a sedentary lifestyle

Upon diagnosis

Your ability to earn an income provides you and your dependents with a certain lifestyle. What would you do if you were diagnosed with a chronic disease such as cancer? Such a disease can render one unable to work and place one’s family under immense financial pressure.

What is important, is to protect your income against unforeseen events such as this. It is essential that you take out appropriate insurance cover against possible adversity. Personal cover should be regarded as an investment in your, your family’s, and your business’ financial security.

Protecting your income

Many people are not familiar with Income Protection insurance and consider Life Cover and lump sum Disability Cover sufficient. But whether or not you have dependents, if illness would mean that you couldn’t pay your bills, Income Protection should be a serious consideration.

An Income Protection benefit gives you:

  • A monthly “salary”, should you lose your income or part thereof due to temporary or permanent disability, illness or an accident;
  • The ability to employ someone to run your business in your absence, should you own a business;
  • Cover until you reach normal retirement age, which is 65.

The lump sums paid by conventional Disability or Impairment cover may not compensate for the loss of a regular income over a long period. With Income Protection you can continue providing for your family, and your ability to pay the household bills remains intact, even if you cannot work.

The necessity of other cover

The importance of sufficient personal cover cannot be overemphasised, especially for women with dependents, and this insurance cover should be aimed at making provision for specific needs.

Once provision has been made to protect your income in case of being diagnosed with a dread disease like cancer, one should consider getting additional Dread Disease cover which allows for a lump sum payment if diagnosed with cancer or any other listed dread disease. Affordability is an important factor when deciding on how much cover is necessary.

Decreasing the likelihood

Having the right cover in place should not make one complacent, though. While some risk factors cannot be controlled (such as a defective gene), most can. You can choose to exercise or to maintain healthy eating habits, for example, as well as cultivate additional habits in the interest of prevention:

  • Monthly Breast Self-Exam

    Research has shown that monthly breast self-examination plays an important role in finding breast cancer. It involves a systematic step-by-step approach, which can be viewed on CANSA’s website: Knowing what regular monthly changes in the breast feel like is the best way to monitor breast health. Any noticeable changes a woman detects, should be reported to a doctor straight away.

  • Clinical Breast Exam

    An examination is done by a breast health professional. CANSA advocates a mammogram every three (3) years from age 40 for non-symptomatic breast screening.

The breast cancer survival rate increases dramatically if it is discovered early. Getting checked, and checking yourself regularly can save your life. In addition, having the right personal cover in place will put your mind at ease and take care of your dependents and bills when you cannot.

Sanlam Life Insurance is a licensed financial service provider.
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