7 Essential Facts About Life Insurance For Cancer Patients [No Exam]

Written by Heidi Mertlich

In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. – National Cancer Institute

It’s incredibly common to receive a cancer diagnosis. In fact, over a lifetime, Americans have about a 1 in 3 chance of developing some form of cancer. (For men, the risk is a little higher.)

Unsurprisingly, cancer is a top motivator to explore life insurance options.

Your ability to be approved for life insurance as a cancer patient is dependent on seven important factors. 

The good news – Can you get life insurance if you have cancer? YES

Here, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about purchasing life insurance after a cancer diagnosis.


Table Of Contents


Life Insurance For Cancer Patients

There are seven essential things life insurance carriers will want to know about your cancer:

cancer patients

Subject to change.

1. Type Of Cancer

Cancer is a general term that is used to define abnormal cell growth.

Cancer is a term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and can invade nearby tissues. – National Cancer Institute

In all, there are more than 100 forms of cancer. Your specific type of cancer will affect how life insurance companies view your application.

Here’s why – While it sounds impersonal, life insurance carriers are in the business of risk absorption. The more risk (cancer) you present, the more money you will be charged in exchange for life insurance protection.

Some cancers are considered higher risk than others.

You will be asked about your cancer’s tissue of origin during the application process because each type of cancer is underwritten differently.

2. Stage Of Cancer

As cancer cells divide, they can spread to other parts of your body. Physicians use a staging system, based on Roman numerals, to define how far cancer cells have divided in your body.

Cancer staging relies heavily on three factors:

  1. Tumor size
  2. Lymph node involvement
  3. Metastasis

Generally, there are five stages of cancer: 0, I, II, III, and IV. Each stage typically has a subcategory to further define how far cancer has spread. Some cancers do not have a stage 0.

For example:

  • Stage 0 – Cancer is considered in situ, or in place, and has not affected nearby cells.
  • Stage I – Small cancer or tumor that has not grown deeply into nearby tissues. No lymph node involvement.
  • Stage II & III – Tends to represent cancers that have some lymph involvement.
  • Stage IV – Cancer has metastasized, or spread, to other organs or areas of your body.

You will be asked about the specific stage of your cancer because advanced stages present more risk.

To get an idea of how your stage of cancer affects your ability to be approved for traditional life insurance (after a required waiting period), consider this chart:

cancer patients

 

Keep in mind – The chart represents a general idea of your ability to be approved for traditional life insurance, depending on the stage of your cancer. That is to say, life insurance in which you participate in full underwriting.

Also note – Conversely, some no exam life insurance options, like Guaranteed Issue life insurance, issue life insurance to cancer patients all the time.

3. Forms Of Treatment

Life insurance carriers will want to know the forms of treatment you receive(d).

The most common types of treatment include:

  • Surgery – Removal of a cancerous tumor, tissue, or lymph nodes
  • Radiation – High energy waves to destroy cancer cells
  • Chemotherapy – A systemic therapy in which drugs are used to kill cancer cells
  • Medications – Drugs prescribed to combat cancer or conditions developed as a result of cancer or its treatment

Important

If you are currently undergoing treatment, you will likely only qualify for Guaranteed Issue (GI) coverage. While more expensive, some life insurance is better than zero life insurance.

It’s possible you will qualify for traditional life insurance after completing treatment.

4. Date Of First Treatment

You will be asked when your cancer treatment began.

Here’s why – Underwriters want to understand the nature of your treatment history. For example, some treatments last for years, while other treatments last for less than a month.

5. Date Of Last Treatment

You will also be asked when you completed cancer treatment, or if you are still receiving treatment.

Here’s why – Each type of cancer has a different waiting period for approval for traditional life insurance after treatment.

6. Any Recurrence?

Life insurance carriers will want to know if you have experienced a recurrence of cancer.

If you have a recurrence, plan to answer the following questions:

  1. Date of recurrence
  2. Tissue type of recurrence
  3. Stage of cancer
  4. Treatment type
  5. Prognosis

7. Remission Status

Finally, you will be asked if you are currently in remission.

Specifically, plan to answer:

  1. Date of remission status
  2. Prognosis

 

10 Common Forms Of Cancer

cancer patients

While Final Expense life insurance options are available at any time, you will need to plan on waiting to buy traditional life insurance.

Keep in mind

The following wait times provide a general idea. Your type of cancer, stage, tumor grade/size, treatment types, and overall prognosis will affect if and when you may purchase traditional life insurance.

Wait Time For Life Traditional Insurance Approval

Your wait time begins once you are in remission. Wait times provided are best-case scenarios.

Remember – Your wait times pertain to fully underwritten life insurance. Guaranteed issue life insurance is available before the wait time is over – and even while you are in cancer treatment.

Breast Cancer 

Estimated new cases annually: 266,120 (female), 2,550 (male)

Factors influencing underwriting

  • Type of breast cancer – Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, Invasive Ductal CarcinomaLobular Carcinoma In Situ, Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, and Inflammatory Breast Cancer
    • Rare types of breast cancer: Paget disease of the nipple, Phyllodes tumor, Angiosarcoma
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
    • Tumor grade
    • Estrogen/Progesterone receptor status
    • HER2 protein status
    • Oncotype DX score
  • Treatment – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, drug therapy

Wait Time – at least two years. 

Lung

Estimated new cases annually: 234,030

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of lung cancer non-small cell (most common) and small cell
    • Rare type of lung cancer:  lung carcinoid tumors
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • If the primary tumor is located
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
    • Whether abnormal cells are in airway only; or are found in lung tissue
    • If tumors are on the surface only of lung tissue; or are at least .5 cm deep
    • Size of tumors – less than .5 cm to larger than 7 cm
  • Treatment surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, drug therapy, immunotherapy

Wait Time – at least three years.

Prostate

Estimated new cases annually: 164,390

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of prostate cancer – adenocarcinoma (most common), sarcomas, small-cell carcinomas, neuroendocrine tumors, and transitional cell carcinomas
  • Stage – I – IV; can be affected by:
    • Whether the tumor is palpable by your physician
    • Whether the tumor is in one side or both sides of the prostate
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
    • Grade group (Gleason score)
    • PSA level
  • Treatment – monitoring, radiation, surgery, chemotherapy, hormone therapy

Wait Time – coverage can be available almost immediately (best-case scenario). 

Colon

Estimated new cases annually: 140,250

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Colon cancer begins when a polyp becomes cancerous. (Note: most polyps are not malignant)
  • The primary types of polyps – adenomatous polyps, hyperplastic polyps, and inflammatory polyps
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • What layer(s) of the colon is affected
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
    • Tumor size
  • Treatment – surgery, chemotherapy, radiation

Wait Time – at least one year. 

Lymphoma

Estimated new cases annually: 83,180

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of lymphomaHodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Stage – I – IV; can be affected by:
    • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma uses a Lugano staging system:
      • How many lymph nodes are involved
      • If an organ(s) is affected
      • Whether bulky disease is present (chest tumors)
      • Whether blood or bone marrow is affected
    • Hodgkin Lymphoma also uses Lugano staging system (see above); and –
      • Your stage can be assigned A or B. B assignment occurs if –
        • You have lost more than 10% of your body weight
        • You have a persistent fever of at least 100.4
        • Night sweats
  • Treatment – chemotherapy, drug therapy, radiation, rarely stem-cell transplant

Wait time – at least three years.

Melanoma

Estimated new cases annually: 91,270

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of melanomasuperficial spreading melanoma, lentigo melanoma, acute lentiginous melanoma, and nodular melanoma
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • Tumor thickness (Breslow measurement)
      • Range: less than 1 mm to more than 4 mm
    • Ulceration of skin around the tumor
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
  • Treatment – surgery, radiation, drug therapy, sometimes chemotherapy

Wait time – at least one year.

Kidney

Estimated new cases annually: 63,340

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of kidney cancerrenal cell carcinoma (most common), transitional cell carcinoma, Wilms tumor, and renal sarcoma
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • If one or both kidneys are involved
    • Tumor size
      • Range: less than 7 cm to any size that has grown beyond Gerota’s fascia
    • If a major vein is affected
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
  • Treatment – surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, drug therapy

Wait time – at least one year. 

Bladder

Estimated new cases annually: 81,190

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of bladder cancerurothelial carcinoma (most common, also called transitional cell), squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, small-cell carcinoma, and sarcoma
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • If bladder connective tissue or muscle is involved
    • If hollow part of the bladder is affected
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
  • Treatment – surgery, biological therapy, chemotherapy 

Wait time – at least one year. 

Ovarian

Estimated new cases annually: 22,240

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of ovarian cancerepithelial cell tumor (most common), germ cell carcinoma tumors, stromal carcinoma tumors, small-cell carcinoma of the ovary
  • Stage – I – IV; can be affected by:
    • If one or both ovaries are involved
    • If only ovarian or fallopian tube tissue is affected
    • If fluid or washings from abdomen or pelvis are involved
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Metastasis
  • Treatment – surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, drug therapy

Wait time – at least one year.

Pancreatic

Estimated new cases annually: 55,440

Factors influencing life insurance underwriting

  • Type of pancreatic cancerexocrine pancreatic cancers (most common), pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors
  • Stage – 0 – IV; can be affected by:
    • If cancer is confined to the top layer of pancreatic duct cells
    • Whether deeper pancreatic tissue is involved
    • Tumor size
      • Range: less than 2 cm to more than 4 cm
    • Lymph node involvement
    • Blood vessel involvement
    • Metastasis
  • Treatment – surgery, radiation, chemotherapy

Wait time – at least two years.

Other Cancer

In all, there are more than 100 types of cancer.

Life insurance companies will evaluate each form of cancer differently based on your risk and prognosis.

However, you can plan on the same factors influencing the underwriting process:

  • Type of cancer
  • Stage of cancer
  • Forms of treatment 
  • Your overall prognosis

*Annual cancer estimates from the  National Cancer Institute

Keep In Mind 

Other factors influence your underwriting (the process of evaluating risk).

For example, if you are overweight, have other underlying health complications, or you are a smoker, it’s likely the life insurance underwriter will want to know.

Here’s why

While it sounds impersonal, carriers are in the business of assessing risk. If you have a health condition, cancer or otherwise, or a lifestyle that increases your odds for serious illness, plan to communicate this information during the application process.

Life Insurance With Cancer [No Exam]

Life insurance for someone with cancer is possible, but your options are limited.

If you are currently in cancer treatment, or you have not surpassed the required wait time for your cancer remission, you will likely have one option for life insurance: Guaranteed Issue.

Simply put, Guaranteed Issue life insurance is guaranteed to be issued (approved), regardless of your health status.

Benefits Of Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

  1. No medical exam – no needles, nurses, or liquid samples
  2. Guaranteed approval
  3. Quick, simple application process
  4. Some life insurance is better than zero life insurance

Top-rated carriers offering Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance 

Drawbacks Of Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance

  1. Age restrictions (40 – 85 years old)
  2. Expensive
  3. The death benefit is usually graded, meaning that for the first two years of the policy, your beneficiaries will not be eligible for the death benefit. Instead, a return of premiums, plus 10% interest, is usually paid.
  4. Modest face amount, typically between $5,000 – $40,000

Life Insurance For Cancer Survivors 

There are more options for life insurance for cancer survivors.

If you are in remission, you may be able to secure fully underwritten life insurance. In other words, once you have passed your cancer’s wait time, it’s possible to be approved for traditional life insurance.

There are two primary forms of traditional life insurance:

  1. Term Life Insurance – coverage lasts for a specific period of time – for example:
    1. 10-year term
    2. 15-year term
    3. 20-year term
    4. 30-year term
  2. Whole Life Insurance – as the name implies, whole life insurance lasts your whole life and is also called permanent insurance.

Benefits of traditional life insurance:

Keep in mind – Your specific cancer type, stage, and prognosis will factor into your ability to be approved.

Plan to have the following information readily available. A complete application gives you the best chance at a smooth process and approval:

  • Medical records from your physicians, detailing your cancer diagnosis, treatment history, and prognosis
  • Your overall medical history
  • A family history of cancer
  • Current medications or treatments
  • Remission date

How To Apply

To secure life insurance after a cancer diagnosis, you will want to partner up with an independent agent.

Here’s why: Independent agents have your best interest at heart and can shop multiple carriers and multiple policies to find the best life insurance for you.

A cancer diagnosis creates unique considerations and you’ll want an expert agent to find the best carrier to apply with.

To get started, simply fill out our free instant quote.

About No Physical Term Life
About No Physical Term Life

We’re an independent life insurance agency that specializes in no exam life insurance. We’re licensed in all 50 states and can help you directly over the phone or even by email if you’d like (just fill out a quote form and you’ll get an email from us).

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2 Comments

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October 28, 2018 at 11:56 pm

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November 17, 2018 at 3:25 pm
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