Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A skin cancer diagnosis, especially melanoma, can be frightening. And often, as with any serious medical event, the thought of life insurance comes to mind.
The good news – Cancer patients buy life insurance all the time.
Consider this article your go-to resource for buying life insurance after a melanoma diagnosis.
Table Of Contents
The most serious form of skin cancer, melanoma is cancer originating from melanin-forming (pigment-producing) cells.
Can I Buy Life Insurance If I’ve Had Melanoma?
Life insurance options are available for melanoma cancer patients, as well as survivors.
Your specific diagnosis, treatment history, and prognosis will determine what type of life insurance policy will be your best option.
What If My Melanoma Was Advanced?
For advanced melanoma, typically Stage 3 or Stage 4, there is still a life insurance option. However, traditional life insurance will not be available.
Instead, we recommend you evaluate a Guaranteed Issue policy. Guaranteed Issue (GI) is a form of life insurance in which you cannot be turned down due to health complications.
GI policies have no health questions and are an excellent fit for someone with a serious medical condition.
While we don’t recommend Guaranteed Issue as your first choice, it can be a godsend for those who would otherwise not qualify for life insurance.
In order to secure the best rates you qualify for, be ready to answer approximately seven questions concerning your melanoma.
Note – You will want to be forthright about your condition. That way, underwriters can process your application quickly and efficiently.
1. What was the date of your diagnosis? How old were you?
What was the date of your diagnosis?
Generally speaking, the longer it has been since your diagnosis, the better. Why? If it has been a number of years (often underwriters want to see at least 1 year of remission), there is evidence of your ability to stay in remission.
How old were you?
Your age at diagnosis matters because, put simply, the younger you were, the more time there is for a possible recurrence.
The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 55.– Skin Cancer Foundation
2. What was the stage of your melanoma?
Physicians typically use the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) system to determine the stage of melanoma.
There are three primary factors (TNM) you will need to communicate to underwriters. Underwriters ask you about your staging and group to determine how much risk your cancer posed to your health.
Tumor Thickness and Ulceration (T)
Referred to as the Breslow measurement, melanomas that measure less than 1 millimeter thick have a low probability of spreading. As thickness increases, the risk of spreading also increases.
Note – Many insurers refer to the Clark’s Level to measure tumor thickness or depth.
Plan to communicate whether or not your tumor was ulcerated. Ulceration indicates a deterioration of skin cells over the melanoma.
Lymph Nodes (N)
You will be asked if your melanoma spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes.
The metastasis of melanoma refers to the cancer spreading to distant organs or lymph nodes.
Based on your TNM scoring, you likely received a particular Melanoma Stage.
Life insurance underwriters will pay close attention to your cancer’s stage because it’s an indicator of the seriousness of your condition and your likelihood of remission.
While your particular situation is unique, generally melanoma patients can expect the following life insurance outcomes:
- Stage 0 – Melanoma is “in situ”; confined to the outermost layer of the skin. Standard approval is likely.
- Stage I – Cancer is not thicker than 2 millimeters. No lymph node involvement and has not spread to distant sites. Standard approval is likely.
- Stage II – Cancer may be thicker than 4.0 millimeters. There may be ulceration. Usually has not spread to lymph nodes or distant sites. Rated approval is likely.
- Stage III & IV – Cancer may have spread beyond the skin to lymph nodes and perhaps distant organs, such as your liver. Guaranteed Issue should be considered.
Important – Life insurance outcomes based on cancer stage are only examples (typical scenarios). You will need your particular case evaluated to determine the best type of policy for you.
3. Where was melanoma found?
Plan to share the location on your body that melanoma was found.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the most common places on the body for melanoma differ for men and women:
- Trunk (51.8%)
- Head and Neck (17.7%)
- Upper Limb (17.1%)
- Lower Limb (6.7%)
- Foot (4.9%)
- Hand (1.8%)
- Lower Limb (31.2%)
- Trunk (26.6%)
- Head and Neck (18.1%)
- Upper Limb (11.6%)
- Foot (9.5%)
- Hand (3.0%)
4. What treatment(s) did you receive?
Depending on your particular diagnosis, your physician prescribed a certain treatment plan to best combat the melanoma.
Your underwriter will want to understand the forms of treatment you received, how successful they were, and what types of side effects you experienced.
Common forms of treatment for melanoma include:
- Surgery (most common)
- Radiation Therapy
- Biological Therapy
5. What was the date of your last treatment?
Mark your calendar for your last melanoma treatment date.
You’ll want to communicate how long it has been since you ended treatment because, depending on your diagnosis, there may be a number of years (e.g. somewhere between 1 – 5 years) of wait time before you qualify for a traditional policy:
6. Do you have follow-up appointments scheduled?
Are you keeping your appointments with your physician? Underwriters like to see proactive steps towards maintaining your health.
On the other hand, your application will be negatively affected if you have not met with your doctor since completing melanoma treatment.
7. What is your remission status? Are you experiencing other health conditions?
For a traditional life insurance policy, you will need to be in remission. In fact, it’s likely you will need to be in remission for years.
In the meantime, if your remission status is fairly new, or if you are still currently in treatment, you can always look at a guaranteed acceptance policy.
Further, underwriters will want to get a general understanding of your overall health. You will be asked about other risk factors, in addition to your melanoma:
Your prognosis and how long you have been in remission determines your ability to be approved for a traditional policy.
However, some no physical life insurancecompanies do accept applicants with a history of cancer.
In general, you will need to demonstrate remission for somewhere between one year and 10 years to qualify for a traditional no exam life insurance policy.
Current patients will need to look at guaranteed issue. While policy face amounts are modest, some life insurance is better than no life insurance.
After the required time has passed, you can always apply for a traditional policy.
After a melanoma diagnosis, plan to do two things so you can purchase the best policy you qualify for.
- Partner Up – You will want to collaborate with an independent agent. Why? Independent agents are not held captive to a particular carrier. They will shop multiple companies to find the best policy. This is especially important if you have experienced a serious health condition.
- Prepare – Be ready to answer the seven important questions about your diagnosis and treatments. Your ability to clearly communicate your health history makes all the difference during underwriting.
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