First of all, this topic is not a pleasant one to write on. And neither is it to read. While researching this topic, we came across some very painful facts, and some courageous stories of human grit to survive this dreaded disease. Cancer can cause immense pain to both the patient and her/his family’s finances. To address the risks associated with cancer, it is best we know if we are in the high-risk zone and if we are, stay protected at least financially, if not from the disease. A cancer insurance policy can make a huge difference to the financial burden that this disease can bring. Fortunately, and as you read on, you will also be surprised how affordable cancer insurance policies can be and why they are worth it for those who are high-risk.
Cancer in India – Background and Facts
So is a cancer insurance policy really for peace of mind or is it just a smart marketing gimmick playing into our fears? Let’s take a logical approach using facts and stats.
- Rising Incidences – India has about 25 lakh* cancer patients at any time. India also reports about 7 lakh* new cases of cancer each year, perhaps more because many do not get reported.
- Insufficient Intervention – With whatever done by the Govt. not reaching all families, cancer is pushing over 45% of families with one cancer patient into catastrophic expenditures and 25% below the poverty line.
- Inadequate Infrastructure – Hospitals, staff, equipment and no. of medical seats for oncology courses are not enough to manage the current trend of existing and the rising trend of new cancer cases.
- Poor Awareness, No Use of Early Detection Tests – Almost all cancers, if detected early, can be effectively treated and cured. However both awareness about both the disease and tests required to check for cancer, is low. Surprisingly, even most of the well-educated of people do not get any regular check for cancers done.
- Very High Costs – The Cost of treatment of cancer can be as high as 20-50 lakhs depending on various factors. Cancer-affected households have significantly higher rates of borrowing and asset sales for financing outpatient care**.
Who is Prone to Cancer?
Cancer is perhaps the most researched disease. In the path to finding a definite cure for the disease leads researchers to delve into the domain of which kind of people are more prone to cancer. To an extent, cancer is a reality that works like Russian roulette – it can happen to anyone at almost any age and anywhere in the body. But there is also scientifically established evidence to link the probability of cancer occurrence with specific profiles and lifestyles.
- Women : Evidence and statistics clearly show that women are more prone to cancer than men. For every 1 lakh of population, 326.3* women die of cancer compared to 103.1* men! There are specific cancers that are common in women namely breast cancer (27%), cervical cancer (21%) and ovarian cancer. For men, oral cavity cancer (11%) and lung cancer are the most common.
- Smokers / Tobacco Users : There is a direct correlation between smoking and cancer, in both men and women. 35-40% of all cancer claims# are related to tobacco use. 80% of cancers in oral cavity and lungs have been users of tobacco through smoking or chewing. Survival rate for oral stage cancer patients in advanced stage is just 27%.
- Hereditary Route : Heredity or genetic predisposition for developing a cancer refers to a defect in the set of checks and balances built in the body which manages the formation of new cells. This does indeed get passed on from one generation to the next. The system is not usually flawed enough to cause a cancer (which is really just the uncontrolled cell growth of cells) outright, but rather puts the individual at risk that if a few mutations occur, or if enough damage occurs to their DNA, they might not have the repair mechanisms to fix it. Roughly 10% of cancer cases have heredity to link it with. However, members of families with occurrence of cancer in their lineage are likely to be ‘cancer carriers’ through their genes and therefore have high probability of contracting the disease.
- Cancer-prone personality : Interesting theory, but not convincingly proven yet. People who suppress emotions and deal with them negatively are supposedly more prone to cancer. There is also a higher probability of cancer for those who repress both positive and negative emotions, or show anger, resentment or hostility, take on additional responsibilities that cause stress, react adversely to life changes, are negative or pessimistic or become easily depressed. We don’t say that, it is founded on research***! However, no statistical evidence is available on this.
Can you afford to have Cancer?
The cost of fighting cancer is significant, and that is an understatement. The cost of treatment and tests is also unpredictable since the disease can recur even after a ‘successful’ treatment. Not just that, with newer medicines and treatments available, survival rates are improving but so are the costs.
Here’re some figures on the costs of treatment for the 5 most prominent cancer types in India, and how they have changed in the last 15 years. Click on the image to see it in full size.
But the figures above cover only treatment and are not comprehensive because there is more to cover. There are a variety of factors which determine the actual cost of treatment of cancer. Therefore the total cost would vary a lot when all these factors act together.
What is generally not included in such calculations is the loss of income and the additional burden that falls on her/his dependents. This takes the cost of fighting cancer from anywhere between 5 lakhs to 50 lakhs, and many times even higher. And the impact has been severe in many cases – wiping out entire life savings and even forcing some to sell their homes. And mostly without guarantee of surviving the disease.
Cancer Insurance Policy – Benefits
A cancer insurance policy is a must-have for those who are prone to cancer because of the high costs involved in dealing with the disease. Also, remember that you cannot buy this policy if you already have cancer. A cancer insurance policy provides cover of as high as up to 50 lakhs for amounts as low as 1,500 / year. The low cost is because it covers just one disease.
A cancer insurance policy provides cover for all stages of cancer and includes all kinds of cancers except skin cancer. Most cancer policies also provide premium waiver – pay no further premium if diagnosed with cancer. Some types of cancer insurance policies also provide income for a certain period ensuring that in addition to fighting the disease, there is financial assistance for the family.
While a cancer insurance policy comes with a waiting period, you need not submit any bills to get your claim. You need only a diagnosis report from an authorized medical practitioner. The company would pay the entire eligible claim based on that.
Also remember that a cancer insurance policy is NOT a replacement for a health insurance plan. Buy a cancer insurance policy in addition to a mediclaim which is generally for a much lower limit and covers only the basic costs of treatment.
In conclusion, to ensure you get the best cancer insurance policy, compare them and buy the one that suits your needs the best.