Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors - The Ultimate Guide

James Rodriguez James Rodriguez  updated on September 14, 2020

You are suffering from cancer or you are a cancer survivor and are wondering if it would be a good idea to take out life insurance?

If you’re looking for answers, you’ve come to the right place!

You’re not alone in this situation, about 2,5M people in the UK are suffering from cancer too.

So if you want to get:

the appropriate life insurance cover for your condition
top tips to pay attention to when applying
medical screening questions example
and indicative quotes

you will find everything you need in the below guide. Let's dive in!

Do I need life insurance if I am suffering from cancer?

Taking out a life insurance policy when you're suffering from an illness is always a wise decision.

Cancer is an extremely complicated condition which has around 200 variations (or types) that affect different areas of the body and that can require different types of treatment. Cancer is also one of the most common medical condition and cause of death in the UK so a major issue as far as life insurance underwriting is concerned.

Cancers are divided into groups and there are 5 main groups which are determined by the type of cell where they originate, these include:

  • Carcinoma
  • Lymphoma
  • Brain Tumour
  • Leukaemia
  • Sarcoma

These are some of the main factors that underwriters consider when assessing an application for cancer life insurance as these determine the size of the tumour and how quickly it grows.

When we talk about cancer, we usually use the following words:

  • Stage: this means how big the area affected is and whether it has spread;
  • Grade: means how abnormal the cancer cells are.

Can I get life insurance if I have or had cancer?

Although you might find it harder, in most of the cases, you will always be able to get life insurance if you are suffering from cancer. There are still plenty of providers on the market who will accept to cover you. 

The severity of your condition will affect the risk assumptions used by insurance companies to calculate your premium though. As a result, your monthly spending on life insurance is likely to be higher than it would be for the average individual. 

In any case, it is absolutely essential that you tell your insurer about your condition. Even if you think you could save money by keeping the information to yourself, you would actually be putting your cover in jeopardy. This fraud is called 'fronting'.

Find out more on life insurance with our ultimate guide.

Which kind of life insurance can I apply to?

There are different types of life insurance you can apply to if you are suffering from cancer.

  • Whole of life: whole of life assurance covers you for your entire life, as long as you keep paying the premiums. It's called 'assurance' not 'insurance', and the reason for this is technical. Insurance covers you for a risk that may or may not happen, like a house fire.
  • Level term: with a level term life insurance, both your premiums and the sum insured remain the same for the length of the policy. The payout is fixed.
  • Decreasing term life insurance: it reduces the sum insured. It’s usually linked with a repayment mortgage and is designed to ensure your mortgage is paid off if you die. As you pay off the amount borrowed, the sum that you need to insure reduces. Payments will stay the same throughout the length of the policy.

How can cancer affect my life insurance?

Here are the factors that will have an impact on your life insurance:

  • Type of cancer
  • Area / organs that are affected
  • Grade and stage of your cancer
  • Treatment (i.e. chemotherapy, radiotherapy etc.)
  • Date of diagnosis
  • Time in remission etc.

Depending on your condition, certain exclusions might be added to your policy. 

How will my insurance premium be affected If I am a a cancer patient?

Life insurance will generally be more expensive, since insurers consider cancer to pose an added health risk and increase the chances of a claim being made before the term of the policy (if there is one). 

When a policy is issued, the first premiums will be high because that’s when the insurance company has the greatest risk. For most cancers, as time goes by the risk of the cancer coming back gets lower.

In some cases, you might not get a policy or only qualify for a more expensive policy if you have a better prognosis or an early-stage of this cancer.

Cancer survivors that have been in remission and out of treatment for two to five years are much more likely to qualify for a traditional term or permanent life insurance policy.

Will my premium increase if my cancer condition gets worse?

We would recommend a guaranteed premium policy for cancer life insurance. With that kind of guarantee, your insurer won’t be able to raise your premium, regardless of the evolution of your condition.

How to apply for life insurance covering cancer?

What questions am I likely to be asked when subscribing to life insurance with cancer?

As you fill in your application for life insurance, the chosen insurance firm will ask you a list of question to evaluate your condition and estimate what premium you should pay. 

You will have to answer honestly and fully to the best of your knowledge. If you omit to mention a specific illness or provide any misleading information, you will encounter issues when making future claims. 

With a medical condition, you will be requested to disclose more information. As a person suffering from cancer, you will generally have to deal with the following questions:

  • When were you diagnosed with cancer?
  • What treatment did you have? This may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, cryotherapy, brachytherapy or hormone therapy?
  • Did the cancer spread to any other part of the body (excluding lymph nodes)?
  • When did you complete all treatment?
  • Were you told any of the following information regarding the cancer? TNM Classification (for example T1 N0 M0), Staging (for example Stage 1b), Grade, Gleason Score or size of the tumour. If so please provide full details.
  • Has there been any recurrence of the cancer?
  • How many immediate family members (mother or sisters) have had cancer before age 60?
  • Age at onset of the condition?

Which documents will I need to provide?

Not all life insurance policies involve a medical examination, depending on your age and the amount of life cover you are requesting. However, with a medical history of cancer, your insurer might request a professional to undertake your medical examination. 

Indeed, in order to proceed with your request, the insurer will need proof of your condition, and will likely request that you provide medical documents and tests. 

Whether you have or had a cancer, you will have to provide a complete medical screening when taking out life insurance.

Can I not get covered if I am suffering from cancer?

You can be denied your life insurance if you are a a cancer patient, particularly if there are aggravating conditions:

  • You are a smoker;
  • You suffer from heart conditions;
  • You have a family history related to cancer;
  • You have cancer complications etc.

However, you should always be able to find a specialist insurer able to cover you as long as your illness is not terminal.

Does life insurance with critical illness cover is enough for my cancer?

If you already applied for a life insurance, you may be covered for cancer if you've taken out critical illness option and depending on what is mentioned in your policy schedule.

However, you must know that applying for life insurance with critical illness covering your medical condition is not enough to be covered. You must mentioned in any case your medical record to your insurer when applying.

Critical illness insurance is an extra that can be added to your policy, or can be combined with your standard life insurance. It pays out a tax-free lump sum if you contract a disease. The illness developed must be specified in your policy contract.

Critical illness is defined as an illness that is curable; this is different from terminal illness, where the life expectancy is really low (not more than one year). Terminal illness is usually covered by life insurance. 

The most common illnesses covered by critical illness insurance are heart attacks, stroke, non-terminal cancer etc. If you become really ill, your insurance will pay out exactly as if you’ve passed away. 

There are two types of cover and it’s important to know the difference:

  • additional cover will pay out if you’re diagnosed, and it will also pay out if you die:
  • combined cover will pay out either on diagnosis, or if you die, but it won’t pay out twice.

Check out our guide to know more about life insurance with critical illness.