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. The number of deaths from cancer increased to 29.530 in 2022. 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 detect early 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. The treatment varies on a case-to-case basis, so does the cost. However, with medical inflation in the mix, the price for cancer treatment can cost up to RM395,000, and treatment costs can continue to rise each year.
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, while those with significant family history of prostate cancer are recommended to start prostate cancer screening at the age of 40.
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.
Another interesting fact when it comes to finances and cancer is about cancer survival disparities. Patients who are in the high income bracket have over 90% survival rate while patients who are in the lower income bracket have less than 65% odds of beating this disease.
However, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself financially and 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 life assured 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.
In fact, the 2019 Malaysia National Health Morbidity Survey reported that only 22% of Malaysians have some form of private health insurance. About 50% do not have access to financial coverage for medical treatments except for government provided healthcare services.
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 worst 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.
How does cancer insurance work?
When a cancer insurance policy is purchased, regular premiums are paid to the insurance provider. If you are diagnosed with cancer during the insured period, you can receive the benefits outlined in the cancer policy. This may include lump-sum payouts, medical expense reimbursement, hospitalisation coverage, and other related benefits.
Why do I need a cancer insurance plan if I already have health insurance?
Health insurance may indeed cover some of your cancer treatment-related medical expenses. However, it may not cover all of it.
What types of cancer are covered by cancer insurance?
This will depend on your cancer policy. However, most cancer coverage includes a wide range of cancer types, including but not limited to breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, and leukaemia. Read your policy details thoroughly to understand its specific coverage and exclusions.
Can I purchase cancer insurance if I have a pre-existing condition?
This will depend on the cancer insurance provider as well as your specific health condition. Some cancer policies may want you to undergo a medical examination to exclude cancer-related pre-existing conditions. It’s best to consult with your insurance provider to understand the specific guidelines and whether you’re eligible.
Can I buy cancer insurance for my family members?
Yes, you can purchase cancer insurance for family members. This includes your spouse, children, and parents. However, it does depend on your cancer insurance provider’s policy options. Nonetheless, cancer insurance protection for your family members can ensure financial security for your loved ones if diagnosed with this disease.
Are there any waiting periods associated with cancer insurance?
Yes, the cancer insurance waiting period is common, but it can vary depending on the insurance company. The waiting period is in place to prevent fraud by the policyholder.
What is the benefit payout structure for cancer insurance?
This will depend on your insurance provider and policy. Some cancer insurance plans offer a lump-sum payout upon a cancer diagnosis. Others provide reimbursement for medical expenses and treatment costs.
Can I use the cancer insurance payout for non-medical expenses?
Cancer insurance benefits can be used for both medical and non-medical expenses. For instance, the funds can be used for medical treatments, hospital stays, surgery and medication costs, home health care, rehabilitation, and even transportation expenses. You can also use it to supplement the loss of income due to the illness.
Is there an age limit for purchasing cancer insurance?
Age limit varies, depending on the insurance provider. Some policies have a minimum age requirement, while others may have a maximum age limit (usually around 65 to 70 years old). For accurate information, check with your insurance provider.
Can I cancel my cancer insurance policy?
Yes, you can. However, this means that you will not have cancer coverage anymore. Also, cancellation terms and conditions vary among insurance providers. Thus, review your policy details to understand the cancellation process, if there are any fees to be paid, as well as potential refunds.
What happens if I don’t make a cancer insurance claim during the policy period?
Typically, you will not receive any benefits or refunds if you do not make a claim during the policy period and the policy has reached its expiration or renewal date.
Can I get cancer insurance if I have a family history of cancer?
Yes, you can obtain insurance for cancer even if you have a family history of this disease. However, do disclose relevant family medical history during the application process, as this may impact the premium and coverage terms.
Does cancer insurance cover precision medicine / targeted cancer treatments?
This depends on your insurance policy and the provider. For example, Prudential covers precision medicine for cancer treatment. Precision medicine for cancer is still new, but the targeted treatment presents with advantages such as a higher chance of recovery and fewer side effects as treatment is tailored to the patient.
Read ‘Precision Medicine: The Upcoming Approach to Disease Treatment and Prevention’ for more information.
Can I upgrade my cancer insurance coverage in the future?
Yes, you can upgrade or opt for additional coverage options with Prudential. Doing so will enhance your cancer coverage. However, upgrades may require underwriting and be subjected to certain conditions set by the company. Hence, it is best to refer to a Prudential agent for more information on how to do so.
Can I transfer my cancer insurance policy to another person?
Cancer insurance policies are generally non-transferable from one individual to another.
What happens if I miss paying the cancer insurance premiums?
If you miss paying your cancer insurance premiums, the cancer coverage may lapse, and you may no longer be eligible for its benefits. While there is usually a grace period specified in the policy, paying your premiums on time is important to maintain the continuity of your coverage.
Cancer is an unfortunate diagnosis, and with the diagnosis come many uncertainties. However, with PRUCancer X, you can have peace of mind that your treatment and medications are covered so you can focus on getting well without worrying about finances.
* 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