Surviving cancer is something to celebrate – but not if the treatment leaves you with a lifetime of debt

Brian Harris, General Manager Operations at Turnberry Risk Management Solutions

Accountancy SA – November 2023

Recognising the courage and determination of those who have triumphed over cancer, we shed light on the difficulties encountered by survivors and their families. One notable challenge is the financial strain that arises from the expenses associated with cancer treatments. Even with extensive medical coverage, it is common for these plans to fall short of covering the entirety of the costs. As cancer treatments often span months or even years, the financial obligations can become prolonged. Without supplementary gap cover, surviving cancer may result in a lifetime of debt due to insufficient coverage for medical expenses.


Early detection is one of the most important factors in a favourable outcome following a cancer diagnosis, especially for cancers like breast, prostate and colon cancer, which are highly treatable but also very aggressive and can spread fast. Advances in diagnostic medicine mean that more people than ever have a better chance of survival and improved access to cutting-edge treatments can result in a better prognosis.

Cancer survival rates are increasing as diagnosis and treatment protocols are improved. However, the journey to recovery can be a long and difficult one, with physical, emotional, and financial challenges that can linger long after the treatment has ended. For cancer survivors, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and undergoing regular screening and surveillance is crucial for ongoing health and well-being. Having a strong support system is also essential, whether that means leaning on family and friends or seeking support from healthcare providers.


While diagnostic medicine has improved and earlier detection leads to better outcomes, incidents of cancer are on the rise, especially in individuals younger than 50. A diagnosis of cancer is a life-changing event that can cause significant trauma along with mental health challenges, not only for the patient but for their families as well, which is why it is essential to know that support is available and to reach out to these resources – like the Filotimo Cancer Project – for help during this trying time.


Even with the best support structures in place, the financial burden of cancer treatment can be extensive, especially as the majority of medical aid schemes and plans will have an oncology limit in place. After this annual limit has been reached, the member will be liable to pay for a portion of the treatment, which may be as much as 20%. This can add up to significant sums on expensive and ongoing treatment protocols. In addition, medical schemes may not fully cover treatment with new-generation biological drugs.

Gap cover has become an essential tool to ensure that surviving cancer does not leave you with a lifetime of debt, by providing cover for medical expense shortfalls related to diagnosis and treatment. In addition, certain gap cover policies will have enhanced benefits, like a lump sum payment on the first diagnosis of cancer, as well as trauma counselling for the patient and family members. There are also benefits that cover specific treatments around different types of cancer, such as cover for a prophylactic mastectomy if you meet the requirements, reconstruction of both breasts, cover for biological cancer drugs, and more.

A diagnosis of cancer is a traumatic experience, but with early detection and access to treatment, outcomes are often favourable. Survival is possible, but when treatment leaves you with significant debt to pay off it can cripple your financial and mental health. Speak to your financial advisor to find the best gap cover product to meet your needs.


Evy Michalopoulos is the founder and chief executive officer of Machi Filotimo Cancer Project, a non-profit organisation that raises awareness about cancer, its symptoms and treatment, and helps to guide cancer patients and their families as they navigate this difficult journey.


Advice: Heads-up on cancer treatment – Accountancy SA

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Client Testimonials

I had excellent service from your claims department and a swift payout to cover my shortfall with an Orthopaedic Surgeon.   I would recommend Turnberry to anyone considering Gap Cover as it is an essential addition to your Medical Aid. Turnberry Cancer Lump Sum Payment has helped us hugely with all the incidental costs.  Gap Cover is a ‘must have’.           Christopher 


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.


For more testimonials on Turnberry’s support and service during and post claims which have been submitted, please go to the link below.