Cancer is a terrifying illness. But it is not the death sentence it used to be. Half of those currently with cancer diagnoses will live for more than five years and overall survival rates have doubled in 40 years.
Thanks to advances in medical research, drugs are now so advanced that once terminal conditions can now be treated. Yet in the UK, survival rates for many cancers are lower than in other Western European countries. And while some of the most advanced drugs have been available on the NHS through the Cancer Drugs Fund since April 2011 the fund, which is worth £200 million a year, will come to an end in 2014. After this, the government will introduce a new way of setting prices for cancer drugs with the aim of making more drugs routinely available in the NHS.
So far, around 30,000 NHS patients have been given cancer drugs that are banned for prescription on the NHS by NICE, the body which rules on which drugs can be prescribed on the NHS. But that still leaves a lot of people who might otherwise benefit from the drugs. Figures from Cancer Research UK* show there are around 890 cancer diagnoses every day in the UK. These drugs are hugely expensive - a year´s course can easily cost tens of thousands of pounds a year or more. And administering the treatment is pricey - and patients will need specialist nursing plus stays in hospital. Given this, it´s easy to see how a typical medical insurance claim for cancer can nowadays easily climb into six figures - thanks to the increasing cost of these drugs and the sophistication of the treatment available.
So it´s important to make sure that if you have health insurance, you know what you are covered for if you are diagnosed with cancer. The last thing you need if you have such news is the added worry about what treatment you´ll get - particularly if you have a business to run at the same time.
* Cancer Research UK - http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/cancer-info/cancerstats/keyfacts/Allcancerscombined/
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