In an effort to raise awareness of the prevalence of breast cancer, Discovery Health has released some of the 2015 claims statistics of Discovery Health Medical Scheme members who received treatment for breast cancer.

The stats show that in 2015, 9,984 Discovery Health Medical Scheme members received treatment for breast cancer. Of the women receiving treatment, 79% were older than 50, meaning that over 20% of cases occurred in women below the age of 50 and in some cases in women in their 20s and 30s.

While age increases the risk for developing breast cancer, and the most advanced cases generally occur in women older than 50, there are many risk factors that contribute to breast cancer occurring at any age.

This was evident from the women who received treatment in 2015. The youngest among the 9,905 females registered on the Discovery Health Medical Scheme Oncology Programme for breast cancer treatment was 19 years old and the oldest was 97 years old.

The stats further showed that the highest prevalence of breast cancer among men were between the ages of 45 and 74, dispelling the misconception that men are not at risk for breast cancer. According to Discovery, 79 men on its scheme underwent treatment for breast cancer in 2015.Their ages range from 30 to 85 or older.

Commenting on the importance of screening, CEO of Discovery Health, Dr Jonathan Broomberg, said: “With regular screening as many as 64% of people are diagnosed at stage 1. Early diagnosis has many patient benefits, and it reduces cost of treatment by up to 9%.”

In addition to the prevalence data, Discovery also revealed that in 2015, the scheme paid over R177.5 million for breast cancer medicines, with R71.7 million of that amount going towards one drug, Trastuzumab (Herceptin).

Discovery Health Medical Scheme pays for one mammogram each year for men and women, with consultation costs coming from member funds. Tests to determine the breast cancer susceptibility genes are paid from day-to-day benefits. While the oncology benefit provides comprehensive cover for consultations and treatment.

In lower plans, all claims are paid in full up to a limit of R200,000 plans and R400,000 on higher plans. Claims above these limits are paid at 80%, with no upper limit.

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