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Women and cancer: What you need to know

Being  faced with cancer can have a devastating impact on women and their families. That’s why  it’s so important to reduce your health risks – and also know how  to avoid the financial shock  that a cancer diagnosis can bring.

Friday 21 October marks the Cancer Council’s  Annual  Pink Ribbon Day, with fundraising activities held across Australia to raise money and awareness to support women affected by breast and gynaecological cancers.

It’s also a time for women to reflect on their own lives. For example, if you were struck by cancer, what would be the emotional and financial consequences for you and your loved  ones?


How to be cancer smart

No one wants to think they’ll ever suffer a serious illness, but the sad reality is that cancer  affects many  of our lives. In fact, one in three Australian women will be diagnosed with some form of cancer  by the age of 85. (1)

While the threat of cancer is very real for every woman, there are ways you can reduce the risk – or at least ensure that if you ever get diagnosed with cancer, it can be treated as effectively as possible.

1   Know your family history: Most people have someone in their family who has suffered from cancer at some stage. In some cases, an inherited ‘faulty’ gene can be passed onto their family members as well – genetic testing can help you find out if you carry this type of gene. And while some cancers aren’t hereditary, family members may have lifestyle or environmental factors in common that can lead to cancer, like smoking or overexposure to the sun.

2  Get checked regularly: Early cancer detection improves the chances of successful treatment and long-term survival, so it’s vital to get checked regularly. For example, women over 40 are advised to take advantage of free BreastScreen Australia mammograms every two years. Also, the National Cervical  Screening Program provides free Pap tests every two years for women aged 18 to 70.

3  Stay healthy: Although there is no cure, the Cancer Council of Australia recommends some simple steps you can take to lower your risk of cancer. These include quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, protecting your skin from the sun, limiting your alcohol consumption and getting regular exercise.

How to avoid a financial shock

Aside from the physical and emotional burden, being diagnosed with cancer  can have a serious financial impact too. On one hand, you’re  likely to have significant medical expenses  to manage, while  at the same time, you could be left without an income if you’re  unable  to work during your treatment and recovery.

In fact, according to the Cancer Institute NSW, the out- of-pocket costs of health care are rising well above  the Consumer Price Index, which is influencing some patients’ decisions about whether or not to get the treatment they need.2  On the bright side, there are a range of insurance options that can help you cover  costs and protect your finances  if you’re  ever faced with cancer.

One example is trauma insurance, which provides a lump sum payment if you’re  diagnosed with a critical illness like cancer  or stroke. There’s also income protection insurance, which can give you regular payments to make up for the loss of income if you can’t work due to sickness or injury. Life insurance provides a payout to your  loved  ones if you pass away, and in some cases you can access some of your insured  benefit early if you become terminally ill.

It’s also wise to have an up-to-date Will in place – even if you’re  fit and healthy. Creating a Will is an opportunity to think about who  you want to leave your  assets to, and it gives you peace of mind  in knowing your  wishes will be carried out if you pass away. Plus, it’s a good idea to nominate eligible beneficiaries for the assets that don’t automatically form part of your  estate, such as your  superannuation or life insurance. And  by taking care of your  estate planning needs now, it means you won’t have to worry about it if you do become ill.


How to get the right advice

It’s worth talking to your  Financial Adviser to make sure you have the right types and levels of insurance cover  for your situation and lifestyle. Your Financial Adviser can also help you put together a comprehensive estate plan. And  if you’re ever faced with cancer, your  Financial Adviser can give you all the financial guidance you need to understand your options, so you can make the right decisions for you and your  family.

1     Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014. Cancer in Australia: an overview 2014.

2     Cancer Institute NSW, Out-of-pocket expenses  influencing health outcomes, media  release, June 2016.



This document contains general  advice. It does not take account of your  objectives, financial situation or needs. You should  consider talking to a Financial Adviser before making a financial decision. This document has been prepared by Financial Wisdom Limited ABN 70 006 646 108, AFSL 231138, (Financial Wisdom) a wholly-owned, non-guaranteed subsidiary of Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124. Financial Wisdom Advisers are authorised representatives of Financial Wisdom. Information in this document is based on current regulatory requirements and laws, as at 19 September 2016, which may be subject to change. While  care has been taken in the preparation of this document, no liability is accepted by Financial Wisdom, its related entities, agents and employees for any loss arising  from reliance  on this document.


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