Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors

Written by Jeff Root

American statistics indicate 41.24% of people born today will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. The good news is overall cancer survival rates continue to rise.

So this means more and more cancer survivors will be shopping for life insurance. We are here to assure you that cancer survivors are able to secure life insurance with top-rated insurance carriers.

Let’s go over how to find life insurance if you’ve been treated for cancer, including a review of the best life insurance companies for cancer survivors.

Best Types of Life Insurance for Cancer Patients

For former and current cancer patients, life insurance rates can be a bit pricey, and a bit limited in their coverage.  As a result, it is important to understand the policies available to you.

Most affordable life insurance for cancer patients comes in the form of no medical exam life insurance, in which you do not need a medical exam to get coverage.

Many times, cancer patients are limited to this type of coverage for whole life and term life insurance products, because they are such high-risk individuals, and other life insurance products can be very expensive as a result.

Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

Guaranteed issue life insurance can come in the form of both whole and term life insurance. This type of life insurance policy is guaranteed to be issued, as the name implies.

As a result, rates are higher because of the higher risk pool.  For people with terminal illnesses and who are in poor health, this is a great life insurance options that give you peace of mind knowing your family is protected in the event of your death.

These policies typically offer up to $50,000 of coverage, though some companies offer them as high as $100,000.

Final Expense Insurance

Final expense insurance and burial insurance are two life insurance options that cover the cost of funeral and burial services in the event of your death.

Both usually offer up to $50,000 in coverage, with some companies offering up to $100,000.

Final expense and burial insurance differ in the fact that burial insurance policies strictly payout for burial expenses, and final expense insurance pays out to beneficiaries who can choose how to spend the funds.

Survivorship Life Insurance 

Survivorship life insurance policies aim to help spouses get affordable life insurance coverage together.

Though most whole life insurance policies besides guaranteed issue and no medical exam policies make little sense due to high cost, survivorship life can sometimes be an affordable alternative to guaranteed acceptance life insurance.

When the first spouse dies, the other is still protected by the policy, and a death benefit is paid out to them from their partner.

Life Insurance Rates for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Let’s now take a look at some sample rates for life insurance for cancer patients for both men and women, across multiple age brackets, for a few different types of life insurance policies.

Case Study 1: Life insurance rates for a Male cancer survivor, non-smoker, with overall good health and no other chronic illness. Table rating of  “regular/standard”. These estimated premiums are for 20-year term life insurance policy.

Age $200,000 Policy $500,000 Policy
30 years old $21 $44
40 years old $29 $62
50 years old $63 $148
60 years old $167 $407

Case Study 2: Life insurance rates for a Female cancer survivor, with overall good health and no other chronic illness. Table rating of  “regular/standard”. These estimated premiums are for 20-year term life insurance policy.

Age $200,000 Policy $500,000 Policy
30 years old $19 $38
40 years old $25 $53
50 years old $49 $112
60 years old $116 $280

The above-estimated life insurance premiums are meant to give you a basic idea of regular or standard life insurance rates. Many cancer survivors can be rated as regular or standard.

The final decision on your life insurance application and corresponding premiums are ultimately determined by the insurance carrier. Please work with an independent insurance agent to find the best life insurance plans for your unique situation.

Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors – Medical Underwriting

Some cancer survivors may be asking themselves many different questions such as “Does the type of cancer I have matter?” or “How long does being cancer free impact the life insurance policy?”

The reality is your chances of securing a life insurance policy does depend greatly on the type, stage and grade of your cancer, and even on your prescribed treatment plan.

The life insurance underwriter will want to review your medical records and study a lot of different information including the following.

  • When were you first diagnosed with cancer?
  • What type of skin cancer were you diagnosed with?
  • At what stage was the cancer diagnosed?
  • How large were the tumor(s) found, if any?
  • Were surgical margins positive, negative, or close?
  • Have your lymph nodes been affected by the cancer?
  • If lymph nodes were involved, how many and what location?
  • Has your cancer metastasized?
  • What was the type of treatment? Chemo? Radiation? Surgery?
  • When did you start and complete your cancer treatment?
  • How long you have been cancer-free?
  • Have you had any relapses?
  • What medications have you taken and are you currently taking? What are your dosages? How long have you been taking them?
  • Did you have genetic testing?
  • If yes, what test and what were the results?

Along with the above medical underwriting questions, the underwriter will dig a little deeper into your cancer history. For example, the medical underwriter will ask for the exact date that all treatments ended and if you have attended all oncology follow up appointments.

The exact date that all cancer treatments ended

The last day of treatment for cancer is when you begin counting down to secure life insurance coverage.

Many cancer patients are prescribed surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments. In this case, the life insurance company will look for the last day ALL of those cancer treatments were completed.

There is always a possibility of a cancer survivor qualifying for insurance only 6 months or even sooner after treatment has ended, like for small In Situ (contained or localized) Melanomas.

Have all cancer follow ups been completely normal with no signs of recurrence?

Cancer survivors normally will go for regular check-ups following completion of their treatment. These check-ups are intended to be sure the cancer has not returned.

Life insurance companies will review your medical files to confirm you have been complying with your regular oncology follow up appointments.

Furthermore, the life insurance underwriter will look to see if all your checkups show normal results and no abnormalities were detected. Any abnormalities found will most likely cause your application to be postponed or declined.

As a cancer survivor shopping for life insurance, you may be wondering about your specific cancer and how life insurance companies will view your particular diagnosis.

Life Insurance for People with Skin Cancer

The most commonly diagnosed types of skin cancer are squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma. These types of skin cancer account for about 90% of skin cancer diagnoses.

These skin cancers grow at a slow rate and can be easily treated and removed. If the cancer has not spread for two years from completion of treatment (such as surgery) and your overall health is good, you can usually get approved for life insurance coverage with a Standard Health Rating.

Life Insurance for People with Melanoma

Melanoma is considered to be the most dangerous type of skin cancer. While melanoma only accounts for about 4% of all skin cancer diagnoses, it accounts for the highest amount of deaths related to the disease. If your melanoma caught and diagnosed in the early stages, the chances of making a full recovery are far higher.

What makes melanoma so dangerous is that it usually metastasizes to other parts of the body, including major organs and the lymphatic system.

If you have been treated for melanoma, the cancer has been removed from the body, and it has been two years since without any signs of it coming back, you will likely qualify for life insurance coverage from most major life insurance companies.

If your skin cancer has found its way to other organs, you may be required to wait to get traditional life insurance coverage for up to 10 years after the conclusion of your treatment plan. Usually, your life insurance premiums will be higher than your peers.

Life Insurance for People with Breast Cancer

Breast cancer survivors are more likely to be approved for life insurance the longer they have been in remission. The medical underwriter will also review the stage of your breast cancer and whether hormone receptors were positive or negative?

The staging and hormone receptor results will impact the premium assigned to you. Typically the best rate you will be eligible to receive as a breast cancer survivor is a standard rate.

Life Insurance for People with Prostate Cancer

The main two factors that a life insurance company will consider for people with prostate cancer are your Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) levels and your Gleason score.

The Gleason score measures the likelihood that your cancer will spread. The lower the Gleason score, the better your chances of securing life insurance coverage.

The longer it’s been since your prostate cancer treatment was completed and the better your overall health, the more affordable your premiums will be.

Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors – Waiting Periods

Below is a general guideline to approximate life insurance waiting periods for different forms of cancer. It’s best to speak with your independent insurance agent to determine what your particular options are when comparing life insurance policies. Your life insurance agent may be aware of life insurers that abide by lower waiting periods.

  • Bladder cancer – 2 Years
  • Bone cancer – 5 Years
  • Breast cancer – 2 Years
  • Cervical cancer – 1 Year
  • Cervical (In Situ) – 0 Years
  • Colon cancer – 2 Years
  • Esophagus cancer – 3 Years
  • Kidney cancer – 3 Years
  • Larynx cancer – 1 Year
  • Leukemia – 10 Years
  • Lung cancer – 3 Years
  • Lymphoma – 2 Years
  • Ovarian cancer – 3 Years
  • Pancreatic – 2 Years
  • Prostate – 1 Year
  • Rectum cancer – 2 Years
  • Salivary – 2 Years
  • Skin melanoma – 1 Year
  • Testis cancer – 1 Year

Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors – Premium Ratings

Cancer survivors may apply for all the same life insurance policies as their peers, including permanent (whole) life insurance and term life insurance.

Of course, most of these life insurance policies will require medical underwriting which will directly impact premiums.

Did you know the life insurance policy and price you receive will be linked to the curability of your cancer?

The more likely your cancer is to be cured and remain so will greatly improve your overall rating and your premiums.

Life insurance companies generally use these rating classes to determine your premium:

  • Super Preferred (also called Preferred Plus)
  • Preferred
  • Standard
  • Substandard

Under ideal circumstances, some life insurance carriers will approve a “standard” rate for treatable forms of breast, prostate, testicular, and thyroid cancers.

On the other hand, patients with a history of colon cancer or leukemia may fall into a “substandard” or “high substandard” rating at best or, receive an automatic decline at worst.

Best Life Insurance Companies for Cancer Survivors

All cancer survivors will need to shop around for the best life insurance policy and premiums.

Underwriting guidelines do change often and a life insurance carrier that was more accepting of cancer survivors a few years ago may now be declining cancer survivors.

Or the life insurance company may have recently changed their rating system for different cancer types causing fluctuations in new business premiums. This is where an independent life insurance agent’s industry knowledge will be most helpful.

Right now a few of the best life insurance companies for cancer survivors are:

Company Policies Offered A.M.Best Customer Reviews
John Hancock
  • Universal life
  • Indexed life
  • Term life
  • Whole life
A+ 4.0 / 5
Prudential
  • Term life
  • Whole life
  • Universal life
  • Indexed universal
  • Variable life
  • Survivorship Life
A+ 4.2 / 5
North American Company
  • Term life
  • Guarantee Universal Life
  • Guarantee Indexed life
  • Long-term care
  • Universal life
  • Survivorship life
A+ 4.1 / 5
AIG
  • Term life
  • Return of premium
  • Guaranteed Universal
  • Survivorship
  • Indexed Universal
  • Guaranteed Whole life
A+ 4.0 / 5
Principal Life
  • Term life
  • Universal life
  • Survivorship life
  • Variable life
A+ 3.9 / 5

How Cancer Affect Life Insurance Rates

Instead of rating up your premiums, life insurers will occasionally add a surcharge (aka “flat extra”) to your standard premiums for a predetermined amount of time. Once that time has passed, the surcharge will be dropped.

Applicants with cancer that has metastasized will likely not be issued a life insurance policy.

Also, applicants still undergoing their cancer treatments are usually declined by the insurance company. The applicant will have to abide by the life insurance carrier waiting periods.

If you are running into challenges in trying to buy a traditional life insurance policy, you still have a few other life insurance options. You may want to purchase a group life insurance policy through your employer or an association.

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About Best Life Insurance Companies

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