Looking after all aspects of men’s health in Movember and beyond

FA News – 25 November 2020

The Movember movement has gained serious momentum over the years, shifting from a focus on men’s cancers towards a more holistic approach to men’s health in general. This includes mental health and suicide prevention, two issues that have typically been silent struggles. However, looking after your health is about more than your body and mind. It includes your finances too. Physical and mental health issues often come with financial strings attached, which can increase the burden men face, and ironically, worsen both mental and physical states. Gap cover helps to ease this strain of medical expense shortfalls, supporting men on their journey toward physical, mental and financial health in Movember and beyond.

Early detection is the key

Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men across the world, primarily affecting men over the age of 50. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer affecting men between the ages of 15 and 39. In both instances, early detection leads to better outcomes, so it always pays to be informed about screening and how-to self-check. Men with African ancestry have a higher risk of prostate cancer due to elevated levels of Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) in their blood. Both healthy and malignant cells within the prostate produce the protein, and elevated levels can indicate a risk for prostate cancer.

The PSA blood test indicates the level of PSA in an individuals blood, one of the reasons for an elevated PSA result may be prostate cancer, as cancerous cells in the prostate produce higher amounts of PSA in comparison to healthy cells. Other reasons for an elevated PSA result may include prostatitis, increased age and urinary tract infections therefore it is important to consult with a health practitioner if you have an elevated PSA. This is a painless and non-invasive procedure and is covered by the screening benefit on most major medical schemes, so there is no reason or excuse not to get checked. Self-examination of the testicles is also critical, looking for any changes in size or shape, or small hard lumps, which would indicate a need to visit your doctor. The Globocan report of 2018 indicates that Middle Africa and Southern Africa have the highest mortality rates for prostate cancer.

The effects of cancer go beyond the physical

Both prostate and testicular cancer are treatable, and with early detection have high rates of survivability. However, a diagnosis of cancer can be a devastating blow. Often, some form of trauma counselling is needed, but many men are reluctant to seek out help. This is one thing the Movember movement aims to address, but for many there is also a cost concern involved. Gap cover policies can help with trauma counselling benefits to help fund these sessions for the patient.

In addition, some gap cover policies have a specific cancer benefit, that pays out a lump sum on first cancer diagnosis. This money can be used however the patient sees fit, from starting a savings account for children, to taking a holiday. Making use of these features can help to lessen the stress and mental burden of a cancer diagnosis, putting men in a better place to help them tackle their treatment.

Not all treatments are created equal

When it comes to actual cancer treatments, there are certain elements that are covered as part of Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB). For example, chemotherapy and hormone therapy are considered PMB level of care for prostate cancer, and testicular cancer is covered if it is considered to be treatable, which most cases that are detected early are. However, not all treatments are created equal.

A radical prostatectomy, surgical removal of the entire prostate gland, is usually considered as a first line treatment for prostate cancer where the tumour is localised to the prostate. Surgery is often involved with prostate cancer, specifically a prostatectomy or removal of the prostate gland. This can either be done with open surgery, keyhole surgery (a laparoscopy) or, more recently, using robotic-assisted surgical procedures. While medically the outcome is similar for all three procedures, the less invasive the surgery is, the better for patient recovery. Robotic-assisted surgery is the least invasive, with small incisions of 1 to 2cm, reduced blood loss, less pain and a shorter hospital stay. This in turn reduces the stress involved with the cancer and its treatment.
However, this is also the most expensive method, and is not covered as a PMB. Most medical schemes will fund robotic-assisted surgery up to a Rand value, which seldom covers the full cost of the surgery. Patients have to fund the remaining cost out of pocket, which could be a significant sum. This means that should you opt for robotic-assisted surgery, your physical and mental health may be improved, at the detriment of your financial wellbeing.

Gap cover to fund the shortfalls

Gap cover is a saving grace for men who have received a diagnosis of cancer. Sub-limit cover helps to fund the medical expense shortfalls associated with procedures like robotic-assisted surgery, so that they become a real possibility and not a potential financial drain. In addition, gap cover means that patients are not limited to using doctors and hospitals within their scheme’s network, as gap cover will fund the co-payments and shortfalls found here as well.

As with all cancers, there is also often chemotherapy and radiation, which also may not be funded in full by medical schemes. This depends on the treatment regime required and whether or not new-generation biological cancer drugs are used. Gap cover once again provides a safety net to help lessen this financial burden, augmenting medical scheme cover and decreasing out medical expense shortfalls.

Good health means looking after body, mind and finances

A diagnosis of cancer is difficult enough on its own, without adding in financial worries to the mix. A good mental state is critical in beating cancer and having your money ducks in a row helps make this a reality. Gap cover is an essential part of ensuring financial wellbeing, in good health and during challenging times. Talk to your financial advisor to find the right gap cover to meet your needs, and make sure you look after all aspects of your health, not only in Movember but well into the future as well.