Life Insurance for Cancer

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

If you are a cancer patient or survivor, it is essential to know that you may still be eligible for life insurance. However, there are many different life insurance policies available, and the best one for you will depend on your individual needs and situation. In this guide, we will discuss the different types of life insurance policies available to cancer patients and survivors and the eligibility requirements. We will also provide some tips on finding the best life insurance for patients with cancer.

Can you get a life insurance policy if you have cancer?

Yes, people who have been diagnosed with cancer can still get life insurance. Even though it may be more difficult, getting life insurance can provide significant financial protection for you and your loved ones. A cancer diagnosis can cause a lot of worry and uncertainty. However, you don’t have to worry about your ability to get life insurance.

Can you get life insurance as a cancer survivor?

Yes, as early as one year of remission, you can typically qualify for many traditional term life or permanent life policies again. Depending on the type of cancer, some insurers may still help cover you if you were diagnosed more recently.

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is a general term used to describe any of the multiple types of malignant tumors (neoplasms); and can affect any organ or tissue in the body and is characterized by inappropriate cell growth.

One-third of all people in the U.S. will develop cancer in their lifetime, and it is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death.

Cancer cells look abnormal under a microscope. They tend to have a large and irregular nucleus reflecting abnormal cell division and DNA content.

The percent of mitotic (actively dividing) cells is roughly proportional to the tumor’s growth rate.

Doubling time is a term that refers to the time it takes for a tumor mass to double in size. For a tumor to reach the size of usual clinical detectability, it has already undergone approximately 30 doublings to reach 1 billion cells.

Only ten more doubling cycles are needed to produce a tumor burden of 1 kg, which is usually considered lethal.

A definite diagnosis of cancer is made by examining the actual abnormal cells under a microscope. This information is present in the APS (attending physician’s statement) in the pathology report.

Cells are obtained for diagnosis, usually by a biopsy. The pathology report is almost always needed by underwriting when evaluating cancer history unless the diagnosis was very remote.

The “aggressiveness” of cancer is referred to as Grade. Grading is determined by the number of cells undergoing mitosis (cell division).

The higher the grade, the more rapid the growth of cancer and the more likely a distant spread.

Most cancers are graded on a scale of I to IV, with Grade I being the most favorable and Grade III-IV having the worst prognosis.

Staging of cancer refers to the extent of the tumor mass, including the size and spread.

The most commonly used staging system is called TNM, which stands for:

  • T: Tumor Size
  • N: Regional Lymph Node Spread
  • M: Metastasis (spreading of cancer)

A large tumor mass and any spread beyond the original tissue are poor prognostic factors.

Cancer Treatments

Depending on the type of cancer and stage, treatment can include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immuno-therapy
  • Hormonal therapy

Life Insurance Underwriting For Cancer Patients and Survivors

When underwriting a cancer history, the following factors are important in assessing the risk:

  • Age of the applicant
  • Type and grade of cancer or tumor
  • The tissue of origin (i.e., colon, prostate, breast, etc.)
  • Type of treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation treatment)
  • Grade Time since treatment has ended.
  • Stage Any recurrences or relapses
  • Time since diagnosis
  • Time since treatment has ended.
  • Any recurrences or relapses

Thyroid Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had thyroid cancer:

  • Early-stage thyroid cancers can be considered once in remission for at least one month.
  • If the cancer is more advanced, the waiting period is longer.
  • No aggressive histology was present.
  • The tumor was completely removed.
  • No more than one relapse and all treatment was concluded.

Cervical Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had cervical cancer:

  • Stage 1 cervical cancer can be considered once in remission for at least one month, depending on the cancer type.
  • Stage 2 cervical cancer can be considered once in remission for at least two years, depending on the cancer type.
  • Stage 3 cervical cancer can be considered once in remission for at least four years.
  • Stage 4 cervical cancer is typically declined.

Prostate Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had prostate cancer:

  • Early-stage prostate cancers can be considered once in remission for at least one month, depending on the age at diagnosis and the cancer details.
  • The more advanced the prostate cancer, the longer the waiting period.

Testicular Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had testicular cancer:

  • Stage 1 can be considered once in remission.
  • Stage 2 can be considered once in remission for at least one month, depending on the age of diagnosis and cancer details.
  • Stage 3 can be considered once in remission for at least two years, depending on the age at diagnosis and cancer details.

Brain Cancer or Tumor Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had brain cancer:

  • Acoustic neuroma and benign meningioma completely removed with no recurrence can be considered once removed.
  • If the brain cancer is in remission for at least two years, one could get highly rated coverage.

Breast Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had breast cancer:

  • Most early-stage breast cancers that are effectively treated can be considered at least two years after treatment is completed and depending on the cancer type.
  • Advanced breast cancers would require a longer waiting period to be considered for coverage.
  • If any recurrence or distant metastasis will typically be declined.

Colon Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had colon cancer:

  • Stage 1 colon cancer can be considered once in remission for at least one month and depending on the cancer type.
  • Stage 2 colon cancer can be considered once in remission for at least two years and depending on the cancer type.
  • Stage 3 colon cancer can be considered once in remission for at least four years and depending on the cancer type.
  • Stage 4 colon cancer is typically declined.
  • Every carrier is different, so please contact us before applying. You might have less of a waiting period.

Leukemia Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had Leukemia:

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

  • Adults can be considered once in remission for at least four years and depending on the type of treatment and age when the Leukemia was first discovered.
  • Children at least 16 years old can be considered once in remission for at least ten years.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

  • Adults can be considered once in remission for at least three years.
  • Children at least 16 years old can be considered once in remission for at least five years.

Chronic Lymphoblastic Leukemia (CLL)

  • Applicants age 55 and older with stage 0 can be considered after two years of remission.
  • Applicants diagnosed under the age of 55 will be declined.

Lung Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had lung cancer:

  • Stage 1 lung cancer can be considered once in remission for at least three years.
  • Some types of stage 2 lung cancer can be considered once in remission for at least four years.
  • Other types of stage 2 lung cancer and all stage 3 and 4 lung cancers are typically declined.
  • You’ll be declined if you’re still smoking tobacco products.

Melanoma Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had melanoma:

  • Stage 0 melanoma in situ can be considered once removed.
  • Stage 1A melanoma can be considered once in remission for at least one month.
  • Stage 1B melanoma can be considered once in remission for at least one year.
  • Stage 2A melanoma can be considered once in remission for at least two years.
  • Stage 2B melanoma can be considered once in remission for at least three years.
  • Stage 2 melanoma can be considered once in remission for at least four years.
  • Stage 3 and 4 melanoma are typically declined.

Ovarian Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had ovarian cancer:

  • Stage 1 ovarian cancer can be considered once in remission for at least one month, depending on the cancer type.
  • Certain stage 2, 3, and 4 ovarian cancer can be considered once in remission for at least one year.
  • Other types of stage 2, 3, and 4 ovarian cancers can be declined.

Kidney Cancer Life Insurance Eligibility

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had kidney cancer:

  • Stage 1 kidney cancer can be considered once in remission for at least two years.
  • Stage 2 kidney cancer can be considered once in remission for at least three years.
  • Stage 3 kidney cancer can be considered once in remission for at least four years.
  • Stage 4 kidney cancer is typically declined.

Hodgkin’s Disease and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Below is a list of scenarios that can help you get life insurance coverage if you previously had Hodgkin’s disease:

Hodgkin’s Disease

  • Stages 1, 2, and 3A can be considered once in remission for at least one year, depending on the cancer details.
  • Stage 3B, and 4 are typically declined.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

  • Stages 1, 2, and 3 can be considered once in remission for at least one month, depending on the cancer details.
  • Stage 4 is typically declined.

What If I’m Declined?

Even if an insurer declined your life insurance application, you could still purchase a guaranteed issue policy.

What Is A Guaranteed Issue Policy?

A guaranteed issue policy is life insurance that does not depend on your health. This means that you will be able to get life insurance even if you have had a stroke and have been declined before. However, there are a few drawbacks that you should consider before getting this type of policy.

Many insurers that offer guaranteed issue life insurance policies have a limit on the death benefit. This amount is usually between $25,000 and $30,000, depending on your age.

If you die from natural causes, your family will have to wait for two or three years before the company will pay the full death benefit. Most companies, however, will deliver a benefit equal to the total premiums paid plus 5 to 10 percent.

Since the insurer is unsure how healthy you are, they will charge you more for your life insurance policy than someone healthier.

Although there are some disadvantages to guaranteed issue life insurance, it is still a better option than asking your loved ones to pay your final expenses.

Need Help Getting Life Insurance Coverage?

Cancer Life Insurance

If you have a preexisting medical condition and want to buy life insurance, you will need help from an expert. This person can help ensure that you get coverage so that you don’t get declined.

Warning: Applying for life insurance without a medical exam can be risky. If you get declined coverage, it could be at least two years before you can get any life insurance.

Impaired Risk Life Insurance
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best life insurance companies for cancer patients?

Because of their higher maximum coverage levels, affordable rates, and strong financial rating with A.M. Best, Banner Life, AIG, and Pacific Life are the best life insurance companies for cancer patients.

Can you get life insurance if you have cancer?

The answer is yes, but it depends on the stage of your cancer and other factors.

Shawn Plummer

CEO, The Annuity Expert

I’m a licensed financial professional focusing on annuities and insurance for more than a decade. My former role was training financial advisors, including for a Fortune Global 500 insurance company. I’ve been featured in Time Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, MSN, SmartAsset, Entrepreneur, Bloomberg, The Simple Dollar, U.S. News and World Report, and Women’s Health Magazine.

The Annuity Expert is an online insurance agency servicing consumers across the United States. My goal is to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning or find the best insurance coverage at the cheapest rates for you. 

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