Unfortunately, many people only start considering their need for life insurance after health issues arise. When people are young and healthy, they don’t want to think about their chances of getting sick and dying.
There’s a saying that applies to life insurance: You can only buy it when you don’t need it. And while this isn’t 100% true, you are definitely better off buying life insurance sooner rather than later.
As you get older, the cost of life insurance gets higher. If you have health issues, these may also increase your costs, or even cause you to be declined, depending on the issue. Cancer is one of these big issues.
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In 2021, it’s estimated that 1.9 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. And 608,570 people will die from the disease. These two statistics alone show how important life insurance is, and why it can be difficult to obtain after being diagnosed.
Life insurance companies have a process called underwriting. An underwriter evaluates the risks of insuring a particular applicant and uses that information to determine if the applicant is approved or declined, and they determine the costs of the policy.
Life Insurance for Cancer Patients
If you are currently undergoing treatments for cancer, individual life insurance will be hard to come by. Typically, you could only get approved for final expense life insurance, also called guaranteed whole life insurance.
This type of life insurance does not require any medical exams and you’re essentially approved as long as you can pay your premiums. This type of life insurance has very high premiums, low death benefit payouts, and not all insurance carriers offer it. It’s commonly referred to as last resort life insurance.
Definitely take advantage of your employer’s group life insurance plan if they offer this benefit. Group insurance is overall blanket coverage, so whatever ailments employees may or may not have do not come into play. Keep in mind though that this type of insurance stays with the company. If you end up leaving the company for some reason, your group life insurance policy terminates.
Since the 1990s, the overall death rate of cancer patients in the United States has declined. There have been notable improvements in survival rates for most cancer types due to earlier detection and advances in treatment. For example, due to improvements in treatment, the five-year relative survival rate for leukemia has increased from 34% in the mid-1970s to over 65% today. Because of these improvements, life insurance companies have been more inclined to approve insurance for cancer survivors as of late.
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Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors
Many life insurance companies have begun changing or adding new products to allow more cancer survivors to be approved for life insurance. As long as certain criteria are met, some cancer survivors can even be eligible for Preferred ratings.
When underwriting cancer history, the following factors are typically considered:
- Tissue of origin (e.g., colon, prostrate, skin, breast, etc..)
- Grade (i.e., aggressiveness)
- Stage (i.e., tumor size)
- Time since diagnosis
- Type of treatment
- Time since treatment ended
- Any recurrences or relapses
These factors are of course paired along with the other typical underwriting factors common with every applicant, such as age, height and weight, family history, smoking status, etc. Every insurance carrier has different guidelines they follow and some are more lenient with certain impairments than others.
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In addition, some types of cancer have waiting periods. Meaning you may have to wait a few years (depending on the cancer) after treatment before applying. Also depending on the cancer and carrier, a flat extra fee may be added on top of your premiums.
Breast Cancer and Life Insurance
If you are currently in treatment for cancer, you cannot get traditional life insurance. Successfully treated cancer, however, is a different story. When it comes to underwriting applicants who have a history of breast cancer, there are four main factors needed for risk assessment:
- Age of diagnosis
- Nodal involvement
- Size of tumor
The underwriters will carefully review pathology reports and staging information, treatments that were given, any possible adverse effects related to treatment, and your follow up appointments.
If you apply for life insurance through Quotacy, your agent will shop your application if we can find you a better life insurance rate. We do this at no extra cost to you. This greatly increases your odds of obtaining affordable pricing.
Colorectal Cancer and Life Insurance
Life insurance underwriters look at the overall picture of an applicant to determine risk. Their ratings will depend on the stage of colorectal cancer and time since the end of treatment.
Not all insurance companies underwrite the same, but if an applicant had been diagnosed with Stage III cancer with more than two lymph nodes positive or Stage IV, they are typically going to be declined for life insurance. A Stage III diagnosis with only two or fewer positive lymph nodes will likely be approved, but table rated and may include a flat extra for a certain number of years. A Stage I or Stage II diagnosis is likely to be a Table Rating of B, C, or D. Stage 0, or a confined tumor, can get a standard classification without being table rated.
A benefit to working with Quotacy is that we work with multiple A-rated life insurance companies. We have the ability to shop cases around to different companies to try our best to get you approved.
Skin Cancer and Life Insurance
For applicants with history of skin cancer, you can be classified anywhere between the best rating of Preferred Plus to being table rated. The table rating system typically means that your pricing for life insurance will be the Standard price plus 25% for every step down the table you are.
In order for the life insurance company to accurately underwrite you, they will request your medical records including any pathology reports. The pathology report contains information about the size of the cancer, whether it is infiltrating into the surrounding tissue, invading the lymphatic channels or blood vessels, and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes. It also provides the aggressiveness (grade) of the cancer.
For applicants with a history of basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, if the cancer was localized and successfully treated, you typically are not table rated. This means even with a history of cancer, you still have a chance at getting Preferred Plus rates, which are the best.
It’s common for applicants with a history of malignant melanoma to be table rated, but it’s also possible to receive Standard rates as well. Life insurance rates are determined based on the organ the cancer originated, the stage and grade, so it would be near impossible to just guess at what an applicant’s premiums may be.
Applicants that have positive lymph nodes or metastases (cancer that has spread) are usually declined.
Quotacy has much experience getting clients life insurance coverage, including individuals with history of cancer. Our in-house underwriter has worked in many carrier home offices, knows how to navigate each individual’s health history, and knows which life insurance company would be the best option for your individual case.
Blood Cancer and Life Insurance
There are three main types of blood cancer: leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
Leukemia can be either acute or chronic. There are five types of leukemia: acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL), acute myeloid leukemia (AML), chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL), hairy cell leukemia, and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).
Although individuals who have been diagnosed with leukemia generally cannot get preferred life insurance risk classes, once treated with no recurrence, individuals can be considered for Standard life insurance rates. Risk classes are dependent on the type of leukemia, your age at diagnosis, and how long it has been since completion of treatment. The more years that have passed since treatment, the better your chances are for qualifying for Standard or Standard Plus.
There are two categories of lymphoma: Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin.
Hodgkin lymphoma is rare, accounting for about .5 percent of all new cancers diagnosed. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common being the seventh most diagnosed cancer.
In the majority of cases, applicants with a history of lymphoma will be assigned a flat extra for the first few years, unless a good number of years (like ten) have passed since treatment.
Myeloma is the least commonly diagnosed type of blood cancers. Myeloma has different forms, but 90 percent of people who have been diagnosed with myeloma have multiple myeloma. It’s called such because it affects several areas of the body versus just one site. There is currently no cure for multiple myeloma, so life insurance approval may prove difficult. Unless you have had a bone marrow transplant, an applicant diagnosed with multiple myeloma will typically be declined for life insurance.
Plasmacytoma and localized myeloma diagnoses have higher chances of life insurance approval. Standard rates are even possible if enough years have passed since treatment.
If you have a history of blood cancers, don’t hesitate to apply for life insurance. Applying for life insurance is free and there is no commitment to buy. Here at Quotacy we have access to many life insurance companies and will help to get you approved for coverage.
Cervical Cancer and Life Insurance
Carcinoma of the cervix (cervical cancer) accounts for 1.3% of female cancer deaths in the U.S. The good news is that incidence and mortality of cervical cancer has noticeably decreased because of widespread screening.
With any type of cancer, life insurance underwriters will review all medical records of applicants with a history of cervical cancer. However, most cervical cancer cases once treated are likely to be able to receive standard life insurance ratings.
When you apply for life insurance makes a difference. If you are currently going through treatment, life insurance companies will require you to first complete treatment, wait at least one year, and then apply.
Here at Quotacy we work with many top-rated life insurance companies and work hard to help you get life insurance coverage. Even if you have a history of cervical cancer, there is still a good chance that you can be approved for life insurance.
Thyroid Cancer and Life Insurance
When life insurance underwriters are evaluating an applicant with a history of thyroid cancer, they will consider the following factors:
- Type of thyroid cancer
- Age of applicant
- Type of treatment and dates performed
- Any remission and for how long
- Any recurrence
- Any complications from treatment
Each life insurance company underwrites medical conditions a little differently. Below is an example of one life insurance company’s thyroid cancer underwriting guidelines:
- A preferred offering may be available after 10 years from treatment.
- Standard can be considered for lowest grade papillary tumor after 3 years from treatment.
- Standard can be considered for low to moderate papillary tumor 5-6 years following treatment.
- History of anaplastic tumor is declined.
If you have a history of thyroid cancer, your Quotacy agent will be able to recommend which life insurance company will be most favorable to your individual situation.
Pediatric Cancer and Life Insurance
When you become a parent there are no bounds to the number of concerns you have for your child and hopefully cancer will never be one worry that becomes a reality. While medical treatments are advancing every day, it’s a hard road and one that can have a lasting impact, not just on their health.
Life insurance options will be hard to come by with a cancer diagnosis, even after treatment. When your child becomes an adult, having a history of cancer will affect their ability to buy a life insurance policy or at least qualify for one that’s affordable.
When you buy life insurance on yourself, ask your Quotacy agent about adding a child rider to your policy. The rider protects your child’s future insurability. A child rider can be converted into a permanent life insurance policy, without requiring any medical exam or health record evaluations. If you purchase a child rider and your child develops cancer, you can still convert the rider into a standalone permanent life insurance policy.
A child rider isn’t your only option for buying life insurance on your children. You can purchase a permanent life insurance policy on your minor child. This is a more expensive route than a simple child rider, but it allows you to start accumulating cash value sooner, you’re able to buy higher amounts of coverage, and it doesn’t expire like a rider does.
If your child was diagnosed with cancer, you will not be able to buy a standalone life insurance policy until treatment is complete and the cancer is in remission. The number of years that need to pass after treatment before getting coverage vary depending on the type of cancer and the type of insurer.
Let’s look at a real-life example (names have been changed or eliminated.)
John was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer last year, and had his thyroid removed. No complications since. His case was sent to multiple carriers to see what they could offer him. Their responses varied.
Life Insurance Company A – We may offer applicant Standard, pending on full review.
Life Insurance Company B – We may offer no better than Standard, pending full pathology report.
Life Insurance Company C – Tentative offer of Standard with a flat extra $5 per thousand for 3 years, pending all records.
Life Insurance Company D – If diagnosed at age 44, possible Standard with no flat extra. If diagnosed at 45, flat extra of $5 for 3 years added.
Life Insurance Company E – Possible Non Smoker Plus can be offered, subject to full underwrite.
Because of the different guidelines each carrier follows, what they can offer for insurance is different as well. This is one reason why it is a good idea to work with an experienced team who has access to multiple insurance carriers.
Quotacy will look at your individual situation and shop your case at the companies where you will have the best chances of getting affordable coverage.
More and more people are surviving cancer every day. If you have been diagnosed, don’t give up on thinking you may not be able to get life insurance. We know you want to protect your family and we want to help. Take 30 seconds and run a term life insurance quote today.
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About the writer
Natasha Cornelius, CLU
Senior Editor and Life Insurance Expert
Natasha Cornelius, CLU, is a writer, editor, and life insurance researcher for Quotacy.com where her goal is to make life insurance more transparent and easier to understand. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been writing about life insurance since 2014. Natasha earned her Chartered Life Underwriter designation in 2022. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. Connect with her on LinkedIn.