Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and with over 4,000 people diagnosed with melanoma in New Zealand each year, we have one of the world’s highest rates. Sun exposure is the number one cause of melanoma, with genetics also playing a part. Melanoma is the uncontrolled growth of melanocytes, which are the cells which produce the pigment which colours our hair, skin and eyes. If caught early enough, it is treatable, but once it has spread, the prognosis is not so great.
As a primary tumour and if caught early enough, the chances of you surviving the five-year life expectancy of melanoma patients is good. If it has metastasised, not so good. But things are looking up as a new melanoma drug pembrolizumab, made by Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), is having great results in clinical trials.
One of 20 people chosen for the study, Bob Hill was given a diagnosis of incurable melanoma. One year after that diagnosis, he no longer has the metastasised skin cancer which had grown in his lungs, liver and chest wall. He received three-weekly infusions of pembrolizumab at Wellington Hospital and CT scans showed that his tumours were regularly shrinking before they disappeared altogether.
Drug manufacturers MSD plan on applying for funding through Pharmac for their miracle drug, but are expected to be declined because of cost. As the cost per patient is just under NZ$200,000, it is expensive and Pharmac has recently declined another immunotherapy advanced melanoma drug due to cost.
How Will You Afford Melanoma Treatment?
If you are unlucky enough to be diagnosed with melanoma, you are going to need treatment. While the public health system is reasonably good at treating you quickly, it may not cover the costs of the most appropriate treatment or medication for your specific condition. That’s when having medical insurance to cover those costs comes in handy. It’s important to carefully select the right policy though, as out of around 30-40 on the market, only five polices cover unfunded medical expenses. Instead of worrying about funding your treatment, you can focus on recovering instead.
But there is another issue you may not have thought of. During melanoma treatment and recovery, the chances are high that for some or all that time, you will not be able to work. Having income protection insurance gives you and your family the security of knowing that funding your daily expenses will be covered. Income protection insurance effectively replaces your income and reduces the stress at what is already a stressful time.
We’d love to chat with you about options to help you secure your family’s income and cover you and your family’s medical costs if the worst happens. It’s not something we like to think about, but planning for the worst is one of the smartest things you can do.