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January is Cervical Health Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, about 14,480 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. This disease, however, is virtually always preventable with vaccination and appropriate screening which makes creating awareness so important.

What is cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer occurs when abnormal cells on the cervix grow out of control.  Cervical cancer develops slowly, starting as a precancerous condition known as dysplasia. These abnormal cells are easily detected through a Pap test and can be treated effectively.

Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called human papillomavirus (HPV). You can get HPV by having sexual contact with someone who has the virus. There are many types of HPV and not all cause cervical cancer.

10 Things to Know About HPV

1. There are different types of HPV.

Some types of HPV are considered low risk and can cause genital warts and other types are high risk and can cause cervical cancer if not detected and treated early.

2. HPV is preventable.

HPV vaccines are available to help prevent infection from both high and low risk types of HPV. The CDC recommends all boys and girls get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 as the vaccine produces a stronger immune response when taken during the preteen years. For this reason, up until age 14, only two doses are the vaccine are required. The vaccine is available for all males and females through age 45 but, for those 15 and older, a full three-dose series is needed.

3. HPV is common.

Most sexually active individuals have HPV at some point. Some doctors believe it to be as common as the cold virus. At any time, there are approximately 80 million people in the United States with HPV.

4. HPV is spread through human contact.

HPV viruses are spread through contact with infected genital skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids. Studies show that male condoms can reduce HPV transmissions to females, although condoms only protect the skin they cover.

5. HPV often has no symptoms.

Oftentimes there are no symptoms of an HPV infection and the body clears the infection on its own over the course of a few years. Some people never know they were infected.

6. HPV can be detected through testing.

A Pap test can find cell changes to the cervix caused by HPV. HPV tests find the virus and help healthcare providers know which women are at highest risk for cervical cancer.

7. There is no treatment for HPV.

There’s no treatment for the virus itself. But most genital HPV infections go away with the help of a person’s immune system. In addition, healthcare providers can treat the diseases and cell changes caused by HPV.

8. HPV detection can be delayed.

It can take weeks, months, or even years after exposure to HPV before symptoms develop or the virus is detected. This is why it can be a challenge to determine when or from whom HPV may have been contracted.

9. HPV rarely affects pregnancy.

Pregnant women with HPV almost always have natural deliveries and healthy babies – it’s very rare for a newborn to get HPV from the mother.

10. There is support for those affected by HPV.

It can be upsetting when HPV is first diagnosed, but it is common as there are 14 million new HPV infections in the U.S. alone each year. The American Sexual Health Association and the National Cervical Cancer Coalition have online support communities at inspire.com that connect patients, partners, and caregivers.

Underwriting HPV

If you’re applying for life insurance, an HPV diagnosis may affect your life insurance rates.

If you’re HPV positive but have no negative PAP test results, then no further underwriting investigation may be required. If you’re HPV positive and also have abnormal PAP results, underwriters will want to know what steps were taken next. A colposcopy or biopsy may be what doctors recommend for treatment.

In order to qualify for preferred pricing, life insurance companies will want to see that a woman’s most recent PAP test is normal and last HPV test is negative. If treatment such as a colposcopy or biopsy was needed, insurers may require that the last three years of PAP tests are normal, in addition to the negative HPV test.

How is cervical cancer treated?

Cervical cancer found in its early stages can be successfully treated. For women, this is one of the reasons why having regular Pap tests is so important.

Women should start having Pap tests at age 21 (or sooner if you are sexually active). Pap tests should occur every three years until age 29. For women aged 30-64, it’s recommended that you have Pap and HPV tests every five years. For women 65 and older, your doctor may say you no longer need regular Pap tests.

Treatment choices for cervical cancer may be a single therapy or a combination of therapies, such as:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer. The type of surgery needed depends on the location and extent of cervical cancer and whether you want to have children.
  • Radiation therapy, which uses high-dose X-rays or implants in the vaginal cavity to kill cancer cells. It is used for certain stages of cervical cancer. It is often used in combination with surgery.
  • Chemoradiation, which is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation. This is often used to treat both early-stage and late-stage cervical cancer.
  • Chemotherapy, which uses medicines to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy may be used to treat advanced cervical cancer.

After treatment for cervical cancer, it’s important to commit to the recommended follow-up care. Your doctor will schedule regular checkups that include:

  • A pelvic exam and Pap test every 3 to 6 months for the first 2 years.
  • After the first 2 years, a pelvic exam and Pap test every 6 months for another 3 to 5 years.
  • After 5 years, a pelvic exam and Pap test every year.

Cervical cancer can return, or recur, after treatment. The chance that your cancer will return depends on the stage of the initial cancer. Cancer found early is less likely to come back than cancer found at a later stage.

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.

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Does cervical cancer affect buying life insurance?

A history of cervical cancer can affect buying life insurance. The good news is that incidence and mortality of cervical cancer has noticeably decreased because of widespread screening.

Life insurance underwriters will review all medical records of applicants with a history of cervical cancer, as they would with any history of cancer. 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, oftentimes life insurance carriers will require you to first complete treatment, wait one year, and then apply.

Cervical cancer diagnosed in its early stage (Stage IA) will have less hoops to jump through for life insurance approval. After three years have passed since treatment was completed, standard ratings aren’t out of the question. For individuals applying prior to three years, table ratings or flat extras may apply.

For later stages (Stage 1B through Stage 3) at least five years need to have passed since treatment completion in order to be considered for standard pricing. Table ratings or flat extras may apply if not enough years have passed.

Table ratings refer to an added percentage cost on top of the standard pricing. Table ratings are used when insurers take on extra risk by approving certain applicants.

While some companies treat table ratings a little differently, for the most part, each table rating adds an extra 25% to the final cost of the policy. For example, if the standard monthly premium is $50 and the applicant receives an offer of Table 5, this means their monthly premium is $112.50 (50 + 125%).

A flat extra is a specific added dollar amount per $1000 of insurance coverage. These flat extras can be permanent or temporary and are used to cushion an insurance company’s risk.

Example:

Jennifer, 40 and non-smoker, was diagnosed with Stage 2a cervical cancer. She completed treatment 5 years ago.

She applies for a 20-year $375,000 term life insurance policy.

For Stage 2a, the insurance company wants at least 7 years to have passed before considering standard rates without any additional premium (i.e. table rating or flat extra). They approve Jennifer at Standard Non-Tobacco with a temporary $5 flat extra for the next two years.

The standard premium for this policy is $40 per month. But with Jennifer’s flat extra of $5, she instead needs to pay $196.25 per month (((5 x 375) / 12) + 40) for the first two years. After two years, her premiums drop of $40 per month.

Stage 4 cervical cancer is likely uninsurable with traditional life insurance.

Here at Quotacy we understand how important life insurance is for a family.  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. Start by getting a free term life insurance quote today. You do not need to enter any personal contact information to see a price quote and all your information is private and secure. Contact us if you have any questions. We’re here to help you protect your family’s future.

About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Natasha Cornelius

Marketing Content Manager

Natasha is a writer and content editor at Quotacy. She is also co-host of Quotacy’s YouTube series. She can't get enough of life insurance and outside of work is also working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter designation. Connect with her on LinkedIn.