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50% of children with cancer in South Africa are never diagnosed. With leukaemia and lymphoma being two of the most prevalent cancers (where between 800 and 1 000 children are diagnosed annually), it’s imperative to know how to recognise the symptoms of cancer.

Dr Marion Morkel, Chief Medical Officer at Sanlam, says this will not only help with earlier diagnoses and treatment, but may support having the right cover in place to safeguard against the financial implications.

She offers the following pointers.

Knowledge is key

Leukaemia is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for 25% of all cases in South Africa. Symptoms include bone and joint pain, fatigue, weakness, bleeding, fever and weight loss. Being aware of these symptoms can assist you in notifying healthcare professionals early.

Lymphoma primarily originates from the lymph nodes and can appear like any other illness that triggers an inflammatory response. Symptoms include swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin, weight loss, fever, sweats and weakness.

While other childhood illnesses can present in the same manner as leukaemia and lymphoma, healthcare professionals are trained to look out for symptoms that persist after routine treatment and will conduct tests to rule out the possibility of childhood, blood-related cancers.

Register to become a blood stem cell (bone marrow) donor

The Sunflower Fund is a non-profit organisation that assists patients in fighting blood diseases through a blood stem cell transplant, which replaces a person’s defective stem cells with healthy ones. This can be a potentially lifesaving treatment for more than 70 different diseases. However, finding a matching donor for a stem cell transplant is not as easy as finding a blood type match. In fact, there is a 1 in 100 000 chance of a patient finding a lifesaving match, with siblings having a 25% chance of a match. This is why your participation as a donor can make a big difference. You can register to become a donor online.

Be prepared

All cancers are considered Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) in South Africa, which means medical aids have to pay the most essential costs linked to the management of the disease. Unfortunately, the complexity of childhood cancers may mean very expensive treatment, which often exceeds the benefit amount that a medical aid is legally required to cover.

“Unfortunately, the complexity of childhood cancers may mean very expensive treatment, which often exceeds the benefit amount that a medical aid is legally required to cover,” says Dr Marion Morkel, Chief Medical Officer at Sanlam.

There are only a few specialised childhood cancer centres in Southern Africa, which often means that one or both parents have to relocate with their child for the duration of the treatment. This can impact working arrangements, and could mean finding suitable accommodation closer to a treatment centre, as well as travelling costs. Medical aids might not be able to cover all the expenses in terms of chemotherapy treatment as well as the associated additional costs.

Sanlam’s Child Illness and Injury benefit pays a lump sum if your child is diagnosed with a defined dread disease, injury, impairment, or infection, including leukaemia and lymphoma. It will also help cover additional costs like travelling to treatment centres, employing a carer for other children and missed workdays.

Moreover, the cover is available from a child’s first birthday until age 19. Sanlam also offers the Child Protector benefit on certain income protector policies, which provides six monthly income payments should your child suffer a serious health event.



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