Breast Cancer

Published: July 27, 2013

October is internationally known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month’s activities are designed to promote awareness of breast cancer and to help raise funds to support research.

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Types of breast cancer

There are two types of breast carcinoma in situ: ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS). They are also called ‘pre-invasive’ breast cancers. DCIS is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer, where cancer cells inside the ducts do not spread into the fatty tissue of the breast but stay inside the milk ducts. About 1,200 women are diagnosed with DCIS each year in Australia. Previous NSW statistics for carcinomas in situ have indicated that about 95% of diagnoses were for DCIS and about 4% were for LCIS.

Breast Cancer facts

  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among Australian women (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer), representing over a quarter (28%) of all reported female cancer cases in 2006(1)
  • Breast cancer is also the second most common cause of cancer-related death in Australian women (after lung cancer), with a total of 2,618 women dying from breast cancer in 2006(2)
  • According to a recent Australian report, 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer and 1 in 38 women will die from the disease before the age of 85(3)
  • Eighty-eight percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer will be alive five years after their diagnosis(4)
  • Of Australian women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the last 23 years, about 130,000 are still alive(5)

The incidence of breast cancer is on the increase. The number of new cases of breast cancer per annum among women rose from 5,318 in 1983 to 12,614 in 2006, and the projected number of new cases is expected to be 15,409 in 2015 (6). On the positive side, the breast cancer mortality rate for Australian women has fallen markedly since the early 1990s, from 31 deaths per 100,000 females in 1990 to 22.1 deaths per 100,000 females in 2004 (7).

The cost of breast cancer

Breast cancer imposes a large financial burden on society, with a total expenditure of $331 million in 2004-05, when $92 million was spent on hospital admitted patient services, $68 million on out-of-hospital medical expenses, $53 million on prescription pharmaceuticals and $118 million on cancer screening (8).

However, most of the financial costs relating to cancer-related to lost productivity, largely borne by individuals and their families. The hidden costs of cancer faced by many sufferers include:

  • Extended time off work whilst ensuring increased expenses,
  • The effect on long-term employment prospects, as well as the possible impact on unpaid work, such as the need for breadwinners to care for sick family members.
  • Lost income: Cancer-affected households often encounter out-of-pocket expenses relating to transport, medications, specialist clothing and mobility devices, and childcare and housekeeping costs.
  • It has been estimated that the lifetime economic cost of breast cancer, per person, in NSW, is $653,600, comprising a financial cost of $64,300 and a ‘burden of disease’ cost (non-financial cost) of $589,300 (9)

Trauma Insurance and breast cancer

With greater breast cancer awareness in Australia, life insurance companies now provide cover for breast cancer sufferers in many ways. Depending on the severity and duration of the condition, a client may make a cancer-related claim for income protection, trauma cover, total and permanent disablement (TPD), and of course life cover. Two of the three ‘living’ covers being income protection and TPD, generally have work-based and/or income-based definitions, involving partial or total disability or permanent incapacity.

Trauma insurance claims, on the other hand, is governed by the cancer definitions in the insurer’s policy document.

  • Generally, most insurance companies pay a full trauma benefit upon diagnosis of invasive breast cancer, i.e. any malignant tumour characterised by the uncontrolled growth and spread of malignant cells requiring major interventionist treatment.
  • In addition, many insurers, pay a full benefit for carcinoma in situ of the breast (where the tumour has not yet spread to surrounding tissues) which results directly in the removal of the entire breast (with or without removal of lymph nodes).
  • However, you should read the product disclosure statement (PDS) to ensure you know exactly what the policy does actually cover. If you are still unsure, talk to a financial adviser before taking out the policy.

Getting trauma insurance to cover breast cancer is essential, as it is the second biggest cause of cancer-related deaths among Australian women, and imposes a large financial burden on society. 

1 Breast Cancer in Australia: An Overview 2009, Cancer Series Number 50, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and National Breast Cancer Centre, 2009, xi
2 ibid., xi, 3 ibid., p 9 & 33, 4 ibid., xi, 5 ibid.59, 6 ibid. 112, 7 ibid.,119, 8 ibid. 95
9 Cost of Cancer in NSW: A summary of a report by Access Economics Pty Limited for The Cancer Council NSW, April 2007, available from

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