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Old Mutual’ s new Returning Illness Benefit can help to reduce survivors’ anxiety

While severe illnesses like cancer and heart disease are on the rise globally, recurrence rates are soberingly high too.

Breast cancer, which affects one in 29 South African women, will return for 30% of survivors. For ovarian cancer, the percentage is 85%. In some countries, as many as one in five people (20%) who suffer a heart attack will be re-admitted to hospital for a recurrent heart attack within five years.1

With risks like these, it’s hardly surprising that those who have lived through the trauma of a diagnosis – and the gruelling, often expensive treatments that follow – fear the possible recurrence of their illness so keenly, says Dr Kerissa Naidoo, Chief Medical Officer at Old Mutual.

“Fighting a life-threatening condition is a very tough experience and it takes an enormous emotional, financial and physical toll on survivors, as well as their families.”

Recovery is unfortunately not always the end of the story, and lifelong medical tests and the threat of a recurring diagnosis can weigh heavily on survivors. That anxiety can have a further negative impact on their health.

Fear of cancer recurrence is, in fact, a growing clinical issue. In addition to its negative effect on mental health, research has shown that it can also prevent people from adhering to follow-up recommendations, such as regular screenings. Tragically, this can even mean that recurrence is only detected at an advanced stage when treatment options are limited.

Closely linked to the emotional strain of the prospect of relapse are the very real financial consequences too.

“Most life insurers do not cover related or returning illnesses,” explains John Kotze, Head of Protection Solutions at Old Mutual. “This means that on top of having the ordeal of diagnosis and treatment fresh in their memories as a lived experience, survivors also face the question of how they will be able to afford to fight off the disease were it to recur. The mere thought can trigger panic and be overwhelming.”

Old Mutual’s Returning Illness Benefit addresses this concern directly. It pays up to 50% of the cover amount for returning severe illnesses such as cancer, heart attack or stroke – and that’s after the full cover amount of up to *R6 million has already been paid.

You can use this money for rehabilitation costs, travel to treatment centres and any modifications you might need to make to your car or home.

“Ensuring you’re financially prepared for relapse can be a huge battle,” Kotze says. “Medical science continues to make great strides in treating severe illnesses and improving life expectancy, but treatment doesn’t come cheap, especially if you’re unable to work at the same time. With the Returning Illness Benefit, you can focus fully on your recovery knowing that should you need cover again in the future, you’ve got it.

“Although we never know exactly what the future will bring, we can prepare to some degree for possible setbacks and reduce the fear of being unable to cope. And the less vulnerable and anxious you feel, the better it is for your overall health and wellbeing.”

If you would like to speak to an Old Mutual financial adviser to find out more about their new Illness  Insurance and how it can benefit you and your family, click here to submit your details.


  1. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/04/04/proactive-steps-can-reduce-chances-of-second-heart-attack#:~:text=After%20surviving%20a%20heart%20attack,attacks%20in%20the%20United%20States
  2. https://www.cancertherapyadvisor.com/home/tools/fact-sheets/cancer-recurrence-statistics/
  3. *Terms and conditions apply


Old Mutual Life Assurance Company (SA) Limited is a licensed FSP and Life Insurer

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