Times Live – 22nd November 2023


There is a lot of awareness about breast cancer in women — and rightly so, as it is one of the top female cancers in South Africa and carries a lifetime risk of 1 in 25.

However, there is a lack of awareness that men can also get breast cancer. While the risk is significantly lower and incidences are rare, it is becoming more common. It is often diagnosed late because men do not think they could have breast cancer, which increases the mortality rate and has implications for treatment.

Men need to be aware of the signs and symptoms and ensure they have the right medical and gap cover to protect them from financial hardship.


Many people do not realise men can get breast cancer. Though it is rare, accounting for 1% of breast cancers, it happens and the diagnosis is arguably more devastating for men. Anatomically, the male breast is similar to the female breast and though it lacks the mammary glands and milk ducts, it still contains breast tissue that has the potential to become malignant.

Incidence of male breast cancer is increasing, though up to date statistics are difficult to obtain for South Africa. The outdated National Cancer Registry reports there were 194 cases in South Africa in 2017, while in the US there are about 2,800 cases per year. Risk factors include age and family history of breast cancer, as well as lifestyle factors such as obesity and oestrogen-related drugs used for gender reassignment and in the treatment of prostate cancer.


South African Steve Kelly is a breast cancer survivor. He was diagnosed with high-risk stage 3 grade 3 breast cancer in December 2018 after his partner felt a lump behind his right nipple. The nipple also appeared slightly inverted, but otherwise Kelly had no symptoms or feelings of illness. The lump, a ductal carcinoma about the size of a marble, was surgically removed with several lymph nodes and after surgery he had six months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation.

“Nothing can prepare you for the shock of a cancer diagnosis. It is a reality check and it forces you to relook at your life. I found myself to be ignorant on the basics of breast cancer awareness. How could I not know men get breast cancer?” .

He was declared cancer-free in May 2020 and is on prophylactic hormone treatment and check-ups every three months. While Kelly is one of the lucky ones, the reality is many men diagnosed with breast cancer are not. The late stage of diagnosis increases the mortality rate and means treatment has to be more aggressive.


Treatment for male breast cancer is the same as for women and includes a mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy and ongoing hormone therapy. Though male breast cancer may be covered as a prescribed minimum benefits (PMB) condition, this is not always the case, and even if it is, there are certain limits and things such as biological cancer drugs will not be covered.

For non-PMB conditions, medical aids typically offer either an overall annual limit for cancer treatment or a specified rand value for treatment, after which expenses need to be paid for out of pocket. There is usually a co-payment of about 20% and cancer treatments quickly become costly.

Gap cover is a cost-effective way to safeguard financial wellbeing by covering many of the shortfalls for surgeons, anaesthetists, co-payments and more. Some gap covers also offer cover for trauma care and counselling to help men diagnosed with cancer to get professional mental health support. Certain gap covers also offer a special cancer benefit that gives policyholders a one-off payment for the first diagnosis.


Lack of awareness is the main problem with male breast cancer. Men need to be aware they could get breast cancer and of what to look for.

If there are lumps in the breast, the nipples appear inverted, the skin is dimpled, puckered or resembles an orange peel. If the skin is red or flaky, or there is fluid or bloody discharge from the nipple, or there is any change in size or shape or a thickening under the areola or the armpit, seek medical attention. The earlier a cancer of any type is detected the more successful treatment will be.



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Doctors charged above medical aid rates which required upfront co-payments. These co-payments were submitted to Turnberry for processing. My claim form was completed and submitted to my Broker on 29 June 2021.  Payment of my 1st diagnosis of cancer was paid on 16 July 2021.  On 9 July 2021, I received an email to advise that my claim was submitted to an assessor to conclude the assessment.  Your timeous and prompt responses and feedback has assured me that Turnberry provides the best value for money which has benefitted me during my claim experience.  I believe Turnberry provide a prompt, fast and efficient customer service and satisfaction. I would recommend Gap Cover which helps with the additional medical expenses.  It covers the shortfall where Doctors and Hospitals charge above medical aid rate.  The up-front co-payments for certain procedures and admission can be claimed from Gap Cover if you have the right benefit product in place.  Excellent service. Highly recommended.      Vijay 


Turnberry’s Gap Cover Insurance assisted our family tremendously.  My husband was diagnosed with cancer and the once off payment helped a lot with extra medical expenses.


The claiming process was easy and painless. The claim was finalised quickly. This was a huge relief as, having been diagnosed with cancer, it was one less thing to worry about.  Make sure that you have GAP cover. It could be the difference between being able to pay all your medical accounts and having to go into debt to cover the unexpected costs.


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