4 Shocking Facts You Did Not Know About Cancer
Here are four sobering facts about cancer and how you can deal with it.
Cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in Malaysia and accounted for 6,268 deaths in 2016. It is not just fatal, but cancer is also costly.
A cancer diagnosis can be emotionally draining not just for the patient, but also his or her family and friends. You might feel as if you don’t have the energy to deal with the financial implications, but the biggest mistake most people make is waiting until finances become a problem before they discuss the costs with the healthcare team.
Facts About Cancer
1. Almost 60% of cancers in Malaysia are detected late due to the low rate of early health screening
Early detection of cancer, before the cancerous cells spread, has higher chance of treatment success. Cancer that has spread leads to difficult treatment, and generally, a person’s chances of surviving are much lower.
Breast cancer is the fourth biggest cause of death among females in Malaysia, and according to a local study titled, “Who are the Breast Cancer Survivors in Malaysia?”, the survival rates of breast cancer at stages I and II were 58% and 52.7%, respectively while stages III and IV were 39% and 19.8%, respectively.
Source: Who are the Breast Cancer Survivors in Malaysia?
One of the reasons for late diagnoses could be due to the failure in recognising and acting on suspicious cancer symptoms by the patients. Cancer symptoms usually include any unexplained changes in the body, such as weight loss or breast lumps.
But, how are you supposed to know if you’re at risk of the deadly disease? The best prevention of cancer is early detection.
A study conducted in 2013 found that colonoscopies could prevent colon cancer in about 40% of cases. However, up to 70% of people age 50 and older do not have colonoscopies.
Besides the higher chance of survival, cancer patients can also reduce treatment costs through pre-emptive intervention.
Based on a Ministry of Health gazette in 2013, the maximum cost for radiotherapy is RM5,720, while consultation can be between RM860 and RM1,715. However, the treatment varies on a case-to-case basis, so does the cost.
In one report, a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor, who was treated over eight years, spent a whopping RM1.6 million on targeted therapies.
A 2011 study in the Flanders region of Belgium showed that the average per-patient cost during a 6-year period was higher for those with more advanced stages of breast cancer, ranging from €19,827 (RM96,103) for patients with stage I disease to €35,201 (RM170,623) for patients with stage IV disease.
2. Medical treatment cost is snowballing at 12.7% every year
The cost of medical care is becoming more expensive. Malaysia’s medical inflation rate stood at 11.5% in 2016 and the projected medical inflation rate for 2017 was at 12.6%.
In 2018, a breast lump removal procedure is estimated to cost between RM5,040 and RM6,300. Assuming the same inflation rate of 12.6% per annum, the cost will likely snowball to between RM16,513 and RM20,640 in 10 years.
Referring to the previous example, the cancer treatment that cost RM1.6 million will likely cost more than RM5.2 million in 10 years.
Even if you are young and healthy right now with a sizeable emergency fund, you may not be able to afford medical treatment in 10 years’ time with the high medical inflation.
3. One in four Malaysians will develop cancer by the age of 75 years
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), in 2014, 19,000 out of 100,000 people were suffering from cancer, with more than half of those suffering from the disease being women.
It is a common disease and the biggest mistake we can make is to continue to live in a bubble, thinking that this disease will not affect us, or someone close to us.
Cancer prevention keys
So, what can you do to avoid being part of the statistics?
Here are some steps you need to take:
Go for a regular medical check-up
Regular health screening is the first step to safeguarding your health because early detection and timely intervention can reduce future complications and treatment cost.
It is recommended for women age 40 and above to go for yearly mammograms, while women between 21 and 65 years old should schedule a Pap smear every three years to screen for cervical cancer. Men, on the other hand, should test for colon and prostate cancer starting from age 45.
If you are a taxpayer, you can also take advantage of the tax relief for a medical check-up, limited to RM500 a year.
Find out if you are at high risk
If cancer runs in your family, genetic counselling and, often, earlier screening can make a major difference in detection and prevention.
Live a healthy lifestyle
We can’t control our genetics, but we can mitigate the risks of cancer by not smoking or reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, and drinking in moderation. A healthy diet and an active lifestyle are all no-brainers in maintaining general health.
Ensure you have access to early and the best treatment
If you do not have sizeable savings stashed away or adequate insurance coverage, you may not have access to treatment for cancer.
Therefore, it is important to have an updated and adequate financial safety net in the form of insurance.
4. Close to half of the Malaysian cancer patients are financially broke a year after diagnosis
The brutal truth is, a cancer diagnosis does not just affect the patient, but it also affects his or her family. A family member may need to quit his or her job to assume the role of a caregiver. Other than the high-cost medical treatments which can go up to hundreds of thousand Ringgit, hidden costs such as alternative treatment, caregiver, medicine and loss of income, can also have a substantial impact on the family’s finances.
The cost can be even higher if the patient chooses to receive treatment overseas. In Singapore, a lumpectomy, or the removal of cancer and a small amount of surrounding tissue, costs between S$1,422 – S$2,191 (RM4,304 – RM6,633) in a public hospital for foreigners, and between S$4,866 – S$7,112 (RM14,732 – RM21,532) in a private hospital.
In comparison, it costs 241% more compared to a private facility in Malaysia, which costs up to RM6,300, as stated above in Point 2.
However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from financial ruin if you do get cancer. Cancer insurance coverage is one of them.
Insurance for cancer
What is cancer insurance?
Generally, a cancer insurance cover is an insurance plan that pays a lump sum if the insurer is diagnosed with cancer. These policies are quite similar to critical illness policies but only limited to covering cancer diagnoses. They do not cover other critical illnesses.
Why is cancer insurance important?
Cancer insurance helps cover your expenses as you are being treated and during your recovery journey. They provide you with funds that can be utilised to pay for daily expenses. For example, you can use the payout to cover cancer treatment such as chemotherapy, out-of-pocket expenses during recovery, transportation to treatment centers, rent and mortgage payments and even groceries. It allows you to focus on getting well without having to worry about your finances.
Who should get cancer insurance?
You should consider a cancer insurance policy if
You have a family history of cancer.
You do not have sufficient finances to cover a medical emergency.
You want to supplement your health insurance to ensure proper coverage if you’re diagnosed with cancer.
How to choose cancer insurance coverage
Unaffordability was cited as the main reason for not purchasing or lapsing life insurance or family takaful policies.
To put things into perspective, a cup of latte costs RM10, and if you buy one cup per day, it will come up to RM3,650 a year. The peace of mind in knowing that you are financially protected in the unfortunate event that you are diagnosed with cancer only starts from RM400** a year with PRUCancer X.
The 2013 Protection Gap in Malaysia study by Life Insurance Association of Malaysia (LIAM) found four to five of every 10 Malaysians don’t have life insurance. And those who do have some don’t have sufficient coverage for their loved ones.
However, having some coverage is better than none. At an affordable premium, you can get coverage on cancer from RM250,000 all the way to RM2 million, depending on your needs.
Early stage coverage
To encourage early detection, PRUCancer X provides 10% of the basic sum assured in one lump sum* upon diagnosis of covered early stage cancer including carcinoma in-situ (a group of abnormal cells that are found only in the place where they first formed in the body).
If your sum assured is RM1,000,000, you will receive RM10,000 if you are diagnosed with early-stage cancer from policy year 2 onwards.
PRUCancer X – Cancer benefits
Diagnosed within Policy Year 1
Diagnosed within Policy Year 2 above
5% of Basic Sum Assured in one lump sum
10% of Basic Sum Assured in one lump sum^
10% of Basic Sum Assured in one lump sum
100% of Basic Sum Assured in one lump sum
^ Payment of Category 1 Cancer Benefit reduces Category 2 Cancer Benefit.
Depending on your culture and religion, funeral expenses can be expensive. According to a report published by The Malaysian Reserve, costs of funeral services can range from RM2,000 up to a staggering RM35,000.
PRUCancer X will provide your family with a fixed benefit to assist them on funeral expenses. This is set at RM10,000 upon death, regardless of the sum assured.
The need for cancer insurance protection increases as one age, but many people fear that they may not get approved for insurance if they have prior health problems or are considered high risk.
However, PRUCancer X allows for a simple enrolment with just 5 underwriting questions related to cancer risks.
Cancer is not only a threat to one’s earning capacity, but it can also push you into a debt trap. Sure, early detection and leading a healthy lifestyle may help you to some extent but it is not a complete fool-proof preventive measure. Therefore, you should always plan for the best but prepare for the worse when it comes to your finances.
Your peace of mind is priceless, but if you were to put a price to it, it would likely be worth more than RM400 a year**. Even for RM1,000,000 coverage on PRUCancer X, it only costs RM1,750^^ a year, that’s RM4.80 per day. That’s probably cheaper than your lunch.
The question lies in your priority in life: Is your health more important than other material things in life?
If the answer is yes, find out more about PRUCancer X today and take action to protect yourself and your family from the big C.
* For diagnosis from year 2 onwards
** Based on age next birthday 1 to 20, male, non-smoker
^^ Based on age next birthday 21 to 30, male, non-smoker