27 October 2020: Of the R739 million Old Mutual paid out in severe illness claims last year, almost half (48%) was for cancer and tumours – with breast cancer leading citations at 63%. Working women in their earning prime are hardest hit, leaving them and the families they support vulnerable.

This is according to Thembisa Mapukata, General Manager: Alternative Distribution for Old Mutual’s Mass and Foundation Cluster, who points out that breast cancer is most prevalent between the ages of 30 and 50.This means that affected women must often carry the responsibility of being a provider and a caregiver while undergoing treatments, making it difficult – or even impossible – for them to keep working.

“Without good illness insurance to see them through, it’s a lot to bear,” says Mapukata.

As of 2018, 6.1 million households in South Africa (or 38%) were headed by a woman.2 The gender pay gap, which sees women earning on average fewer cents to the rand than their male counterparts, means these families have less to work with in the first place.

Nevertheless, while the numbers are certainly sobering, it’s not all doom and gloom. Owing to early detection and advances in treatment, breast cancer survival rates have increased substantially over the past 20 years. Most women who are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will go on to make a full recovery.

Some are able to keep working while receiving treatment, but many are not. For those who need to take time off work to recover, Old Mutual’s Illness insurance can be a lifesaver. It helps you focus on recovering by paying out a single tax-free amount that helps you to take care of your family’s day-to-day living expenses during the time you’re off.

Old Mutual also offers a Cancer Enhancer at no additional cost within its new Illness insurance options. The Cancer Enhancer boosts your claim pay-out amount by up to 25% of the cover amount if cancer treatment negatively impacts your quality of life and leaves you unable to care for yourself and your family.

Even with a positive prognosis, cancer treatment can be physically and emotionally gruelling and can go on for many months, explains Mapukata.

“After recovering from breast cancer, a harsh reality for some patients is that if the cancer returns -you have to gear up for treatment and the costs and impacts thereof again.”

Old Mutual’s new Illness insurance gives you the option of adding the Returning Illness Benefit, which will then pay up to 50% of the cover amount for returning severe illnesses (such as cancer, heart attack or stroke) even after the full cover amount has already been paid – giving you and your loved ones peace of mind about the future. –

“If you’re not at your strongest, but you can’t put your family’s needs on hold, this kind of cover makes it possible to slow down and get the crucial rest and mental space you need – while your household keeps running, without the additional worry of about debt and medical costs. In that sense, Illness insurance tailored to your and your family’s needs can really be seen as a vital part of the mental, emotional and physical recovery process,” she concludes.