It is one thing to know you are at risk of getting a disease, but when someone we know or someone in the public eye is affected, the reality can really hit home.

Announcements in recent months by both King Charles and the Princess of Wales that they are undergoing treatment for unspecified forms of cancer came as shocks to many people.

But their openness in dealing with the diagnosis has also given people cause to reflect on their own health, triggering a surge in search interest for cancer symptoms and an expected rise in the number of people seeking medical help.

In the UK, it is estimated that 1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime. While there are more than 200 different types, the four most common are breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer.

Survival rates for cancer are greatly improved through swift access to appropriate treatment, which is why the NHS places such importance on making sure patients are dealt with as quickly as possible. And while the NHS is seeing and treating record numbers of cancer patients, the pressures facing the health service mean that it has consistently fallen short of its target for 85% of patients to wait less than 62 days between an urgent referral or consultant upgrade and initial treatment.

Growing demand for going private

More widely, such delays have turned increasing attention on the advantages offered by private healthcare, which can provide rapid access to medical assessment and treatment. As such, private medical insurance has become a highly desirable benefit among employees, with the latest data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) showing that a record 4.4 million people are now covered by health insurance through their employer.

When it comes to supporting employees affected by cancer, healthcare insurance can provide access to diagnostic appointments, treatments, medicines, follow-up consultations and a host of other services. The level of cover provided will be dependent on the policy and the provider in question, with some services offered as standard and others available as part of extended cover options, making it important to understand what your particular private medical insurance encompasses.

Financial help in difficult times

Private medical insurance is not the only benefit that can support workers affected by a disease such as cancer, however. Critical illness cover can provide valuable financial stability at a disruptive time for individuals and their families by providing a tax-free lump sum of money, which could be put towards living costs, care expenses or to pay down debts.

Typically, policies pay out if an individual lives for a specified period after being diagnosed with one of the critical illnesses detailed in the cover. This often includes cancers, but the precise nature of cover will vary according to the policy in question.

Another form of insurance offered under the umbrella of group protection is income protection. This can be valuable for employees who are unable to work for an extended period of time because of an ongoing illness. Payments are based on a percentage of salary, and they commence after an agreed period of time, known as the deferred period, has elapsed since the individual became ill.

An overview of life insurance

Life insurance, meanwhile, can give individuals peace of mind that their family will be able to rely on a level of financial security if their cancer diagnosis is terminal. Known as death in service benefit, employers typically offer this under a group life scheme.

Generally speaking, there are two types of life insurance: whole of life and term life. Whole of life policies run for the entirety of the policyholder’s lifetime, paying out upon death. Term life policies meanwhile run for a specified period and will only pay out if the policyholder dies during that term.

A supportive workplace

Beyond the financial benefits provided by healthcare and insurance cover, employers can also help workers affected by cancer through schemes such as vocational rehabilitation and also by encouraging a supportive ‘cancer-positive culture’. Research suggests that such initiatives can have a profound impact, with 92% of cancer patients in one survey linking such benefits to a positive effect on their health.

Whether thinking about colleagues, friends or family, it can be uncomfortable and upsetting to imagine cancer impacting the lives of those close to us. And the sad truth is that nobody is immune from the risk – not even members of the royal family.

But while statistics show that the total number of new cases is expected to rise to an average of 506,000 per year in 2038-2040, they also point to the fact that cancer survival has doubled in the last 50 years in the UK. These figures are important reminders of the continued advances in treatments and the continued value that health and protection policies can potentially deliver to anyone affected by this disease.


The information contained within this communication does not constitute financial advice and is provided for general information purposes only. No warranty, whether express or implied is given in relation to such information. Vintage Health or any of its associated representatives shall not be liable for any technical, editorial, typographical or other errors or omissions within the content of this communication.