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Breast cancer in Australia

October is internationally known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, with the month’s

activities culminating in Pink Ribbon Day on Monday, 27th October 2014. This is a timely opportunity to raise this significant health concern and importantly and consider strategies for appropriate financial protection is in place.

What is breast cancer?

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), breast cancer is “…a disease in which abnormal cells in the breast tissues multiply and form an invasive (or malignant) tumour. Such tumours can invade and damage the tissue around them and spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic or vascular systems. If the spread of these tumours is not controlled, they can result in death.”

Here are eight facts you should know about breast cancer in Australia…

1: It’s not a rare disease. During 2010, it was the second-most common (after non-melanoma skin cancers) cancer affecting Australian women, with 14,181 new cases diagnosed.

2: Men are not immune from breast cancer, with 127 new cases diagnosed during 2010.

3: It’s the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in women, tragically resulting in 2,914 deaths in 2011. Twenty-three men also lost their lives that year as a result of breast cancer.

4: Many young women are affected by breast cancer. During 2010, breast cancer affected many Australian women in relatively younger age groups. The trend of new cases continued to increase from around the mid-20s and throughout adult life, peaking around retirement age (65-69 years).

5: Fortunately, survival is improving. Breast cancer death rates among Australian women have continued to improve since the mid-1990s, a trend attributed to several factors, including breast cancer screening to improve early detection and medical advances resulting in more effective treatments.

6: Unfortunately, the economic burden (measured by years of life lost) of breast cancer is substantial. The global cost of breast cancer was estimated at U.S. $88 billion in 2008, making it the third most expensive cancer after lung and bowel cancers. In Australia, health expenditure on breast cancer was approximately $411 million during 2008-09.

7: Breast cancer also causes financial decline for the majority of affected women. According to a 2007 study commissioned by the Cancer Council NSW, the lifetime personal cost of breast cancer was estimated at $653,600 per affected person. A recent medical study in the U.S. found that four years after being treated for breast cancer, a quarter of survivors said they were worse off financially, at least partly because of treatment costs. What’s more, 12 per cent of survivors also had ongoing debts related to their treatment costs four years earlier.

8: Breast cancer is a common cause of Trauma claims where 50 per cent of claims payments under the Trauma Cover.

This is where Life Insurance can help

Life insurers provide cover for breast cancer sufferers in many ways. Depending on the severity of their condition, a client may make a cancer-related claim for Income Protection, Trauma Cover, Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD) and of course Life Cover, which typically includes a Terminal Illness benefit.

Two of the three ‘living’ benefits, Income Protection and TPD, generally have work-based and/or income-based definitions, involving partial or total disability or permanent incapacity. On the other hand, a Trauma Cover claim is assessed according to the relevant Cancer definition in the insurer’s policy document.

Generally-speaking, insurers provide a full Trauma benefit following a diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, that is, a malignant tumour characterised by the uncontrolled growth and spread of malignant cells and requiring major treatment. In addition, several insurers, provide a full benefit for carcinoma in situ (i.e. where a malignant tumour has not yet spread to surrounding tissues) of the breast if this directly results in the removal of the affected breast.

Further information

For more information and helpful resources on breast cancer, we suggest visiting the Breast Cancer Network Australia’s (BCNA) web site at: http://www.bcna.org.au/. The BCNA is the peak national organisation for Australians affected by breast cancer.

We also encourage you to get behind the Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day on Monday, 27th October 2014. For more information on how to get involved, we suggest visiting their web site at

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