How to support a loved one with breast cancer


How to support a loved one with breast cancer

  • By Indwe Risk Services
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About one in 27 women in South Africa are at risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, making it the second most common cancer in women of all races, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer. The good news, however, is that advancing early detection methods are helping more and more women discover it during stage one, when it is extremely treatable.


With about 19.4 million South African women age 15 and up at risk, it’s important to note all the implications of the illness, including hidden costs. That way, friends and family can offer the best possible support to a loved one with breast cancer.


From a financial perspective, breast cancer can cost as much as R1 million, excluding any income lost if the patient is unable to work for a period of time as a result of the illness. In 2017, the largest insurer in Africa paid out R291 million for severe illness claims and 31% of this amount was paid out for breast cancer. Since 2017 the statistics has increased and is also effecting men. Without cover, cancer can be financially crippling, so preparing for the unexpected can help alleviate some of the stress that accompanies the diagnosis.


A United States study has shown that more than two million cancer survivors in that country did not get one or more needed medical services due to financial concerns. South Africans are probably facing a similar scenario and expenses can be overwhelming. Aside from treatment, there are many “hidden costs” associated with the illness – such as childcare, cost of transport, special diets and alternative treatments.


Financial support is an area of key concern for cancer patients and their families, according to research compiled by Sanlam and CANSA last year. One hundred cancer patients were asked for feedback on what kind of support they received enough of and what support they wish they’d had more of. This was used to create a “support guide” for family and friends to know how best to support a loved one with cancer – and in this Breast Cancer Month, here is some of their advice:


The best financial support

  1. Assuming your loved one has medical aid, gap cover, critical illness cover and income protection in place, there may still be ways for you to provide financial assistance if such cover is at a too low level or not comprehensive enough. The costs of cancer are extensive, so even small donations for petrol, airtime, childcare, toiletries and groceries can make a big difference.
  2. You might be able to help with the admin involved when a loved one lodges a claim to his or her insurer.
  3. If a loved one has no risk cover of any kind, you may be able to assist by starting a fundraising group.


The best psychological support

  1. Help your loved one stay positive – cancer is as much a battle of the mind as it is of the body.
  2. Give plenty of compliments and encouragement.
  3. Arrange counselling if a loved one needs someone outside of family and friends to talk to.


The best physical support

  1. Keep visits short. Offer to go for regular short walks in pleasant spots together.
  2. Understand and accept the implications of chemotherapy on a loved one’s body. Conversely, don’t try and stop a loved one from doing something he or she feels capable of.
  3. Assist with washing and dressing, depending on the closeness of your relationship – don’t be embarrassed to offer to help.


The best support overall

One of the key requests of cancer sufferers is that they don’t want to be treated like a patient. This means family and friends need to differentiate the person from the disease. It’s also important to allow your loved one to talk freely about the disease, and to be open to honest conversations – even if they make you sad or uncomfortable.


Let Indwe BlueStar take care of your financial wealth while you take care of your health. Call a trusted advisor on 011 831 8000 for more information about our Cancer benefits.


Indwe BlueStar is an authorised Financial Services Provider. FSP 2759



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