Protection

The fear of using the C word

Johnny Timpson
|
27th July 2017
Johnny Timpson Scottish Widows
"Many of us don’t like talking about illness and cancer may not sound like the most appropriate way to start a conversation, but it provides a very valid reason to have a financial resilience discussion with clients"

According to a new study, although cancer survival rates in the UK have increased over the years, the improvements often lag behind those of other European countries.

It’s not an easy read. The study, commissioned by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, shows that with the exception of melanoma, the average five-year survival rates for adult patients diagnosed with nine types of cancer (including bowel, lung, breast and kidney) between 2000 and 2007, were lower in the UK than the European average. And the UK actually has the second worst survival rates for lung cancer and pancreatic cancer.

Experts are saying that more needs to be done. Cancer Research UK stresses that improving early diagnosis is an important part of improving survival rates, as well as making sure new drugs and other treatments are available and accessible to patients. Macmillan Cancer Support agrees with this but adds that it isn’t enough to look just at survival rates – it’s also crucial that patients don’t simply survive but are supported to have the best possible quality of life they can. I totally agree.

Our own research shows that fewer than one in 10 people in the UK have taken out critical illness cover, and one in five households would be unable to survive financially if they unexpectedly lost their income due to long-term illness. Many of us don’t like talking about illness and cancer may not sound like the most appropriate way to start a conversation, but it provides a very valid reason to have a financial resilience discussion with clients, both old and new. And it’s not all negative.

A report last year by Macmillan - Cancer: Then and Now - celebrates advances in cancer treatment and care, with people, on average, now twice as likely to survive at least 10 years after being diagnosed than they were at the start of the 1970s. So although we may be lagging behind other European countries, we’ve still come a long way over the last 50 years.

These improvements in survival are partly due to earlier diagnosis as well as more refined treatment, and as a result, more than 170,000 people are living with cancer in the UK who were diagnosed in the 1970s and 1980s. This is positive news, but the report also reveals that there are 625,000 people in the UK estimated to be facing poor health or disability after receiving treatment for cancer. And with the numbers of people living with the disease set to grow from 2.5 million to 4 million by 2030, more individuals than ever  before will need support with the long-term effects.

As the rate of cancer survival improves, the need for financial protection becomes increasingly strong. Research from Macmillan Cancer Support has also revealed that four in five people are, on average, £570 a month worse off as a result of their cancer diagnosis. Critical illness cover can provide a significant financial boost at a time of emotional stress and financial difficulty, and can really help families who are struggling to come to terms with the impact of the illness.

With many people who survive cancer finding it difficult to access life cover, it’s also important to note that many providers have for some time featured an option whereby someone who has claimed on their critical illness can ‘buy back’ the life cover part of the policy as a new policy without the need for further underwriting.

No matter what our personal circumstances, it is vital for all of us to ensure we have an appropriate plan in place to protect our finances and wellbeing. With recent welfare reform resulting in significant changes to benefits, families need to do all they can to have a financial safety net in place.

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