Protecting your most valuable asset – your health

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among South African women. Luckily, like many other cancers, it can be detected and treated at an early stage.

Women are encouraged to examine their breasts regularly, to check for lumps and unusual changes to their breasts so they can address any dangers early.

Lizl Budhram, Head of Advice at Old Mutual Personal Finance, says International Breast Cancer Awareness Month is an important reminder to women to look after their own health and future. “South African women have a one in 26 lifetime risk of contracting breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Registry. Breast cancer is one of the Big 5 cancers affecting women – with the other four being cervical, colorectal, uterine and lung cancer.” (Source:

"As women, we need to make sure we are taking all precautionary measures possible in this regard – doing monthly physical self-checks and timely check-ups with a medical professional. It’s also important to get the right advice about putting appropriate insurance cover in place, just in case you’re the one in 26 who are at risk."

Although breast cancer is uncommon in younger women, all females are at risk from the onset of puberty. “Young women should be checking their breasts for irregularities each and every month and going for annual mammograms from the age of 40,” Budhram says.

Budhram cautions that in addition to self-checks, women should educate themselves on the possible signs of breast cancer which, according to CANSA, include:

  • Puckering of the skin of the breast.
  • A lump in the breast or armpit.
  • A change in the skin around the nipple or nipple discharge.
  • Dimpling of the nipple or nipple retraction.
  • An unusual increase in the size of one breast.
  • Enlargement of the glands.
  • An unusual swelling in the armpit.

In addition to self-examinations, women need to ensure that they have proper financial protection cover to help pay for recovery if they ever need to.

“In 2016, 67% of all GREENLIGHT severe illness claims made by women were related to cancer or tumours,” says Budhram. With the rising incidence and increasing survival rates of cancer, it is important that South African women assess their severe illness cover.

“While the good news is that the breast cancer survival rate continues to improve with medical advances, the concerning factor is the rising cost of treatments and the lifestyle adjustment costs associated with remission.”

Being diagnosed with a disease like cancer is an emotionally and physically draining ordeal. Having to deal with financial pressures on top of this is something that no one should have to endure, says Budhram. “It’s important to ensure that you are covered, especially if you are the breadwinner in your family as you will need time off from your job to receive treatment and recuperate. This means a likely break in income, as well as hefty treatment costs.”

According to Budhram, your health and ability to work are valuable assets and should be protected as such. “Financial protection, such as GREENLIGHT severe illness cover from Old Mutual, gives you peace of mind that you and your loved ones are protected. The risk cover is a safety net for when life’s journey goes off-track. Ask your financial adviser to assist you to ensure you have the right level of cover for your needs.”