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Can You Buy Life Insurance After a Cancer Diagnosis?

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Most everyone needs life insurance and cancer patients or survivors are no exception. While many life insurance companies aren’t willing to accept the risk, there are several who will.

Unfortunately, information on which carrier to use is scarce, and, even worse, many life insurance agents are hesitant to try to help because it’s a difficult process for them from beginning to end.

We’re not scared of higher risks for life insurance, and we accept the challenge of helping you, because we know we have what it takes to get you insured. Whenever you’re ready, use the quoting tool in the sidebar to get started.

Getting Approvals for Life Insurance For Cancer Patients

Whether you have cancer currently, or have it in your medical history, you’re seeking life insurance for all the same reasons as anybody else; protecting assets, protecting future income, or even charitable giving.

So, shouldn’t you be allowed to be insured like anybody else?

Unfortunately, getting approved for life insurance is strictly up to the insurance company you apply to.

When you complete an application for life insurance after having cancer, you’ll be required to answer “Yes” to a previous medical condition and extensive underwriting reviews could now be in order.

With cancer, there are several different kinds, and each has it’s own underwriting specifications to adhere to. Here are a few:

The first step in getting approved is understanding you’ll need to work with an independent agent with experience, one who has been through the process before.

Avoid using an agent who isn’t extremely well versed in high risk underwriting and you’ll avoid being dragged through months worth of waiting for no result.

Now, it’s time to start gathering data.

No matter the type of cancer, there are questions each carrier is going to need you to answer to begin getting an idea of what type of risk you are.

Depending on this first round of questions, it may immediately determine you’re ineligible, or it may mean the underwriter can proceed by gathering doctor’s records.

Here are some of the basic questions you’ll need to start with (we’ll ask you these):

  1.  What was your date of diagnosis?
    This will allow them to determine your age at diagnosis, as well as how long ago it began. These are key items later on.
  2. What kind of cancer were you diagnosed with?
  3. At what stage was the cancer, and how far had it progressed?
    The most common way to express your stage is using the TNM classification system or the SEER system.
  4. What types of treatment did you undergo, if applicable?
  5. What is the current status of your cancer?
  6. If your cancer is no longer present, what was the last date any cancer cells were present?

Essentially what you’re doing, by answering these questions, is giving the agent and underwriter a quick snapshot of your medical history so they can best determine the course of action.

More than likely, you’ll be able to know right away whether you’ll need to stick with a graded or guaranteed issue policy, or if you can continue to research fully underwritten options.

In other words, based on this information, we’ll begin to be able to offer you guidance, and possibly even policy premiums you might expect. But this is only the beginning.

Underwriting Life Insurance For Cancer Survivors

If it’s determined you may be eligible for a fully underwritten policy, it’ll be prudent to drill down more detail regarding your cancer so we can begin finding the most suitable life insurance company to use.

While it will be more work and likely take longer, a fully underwritten life insurance policy will yield you the cheapest cost per thousand of coverage.

First, you’ll need to begin with a questionnaire regarding your specific type of cancer.

If you had prostate cancer, for example, we’ll need your prostate specific antigen (PSA) results, gleason scores, and more. Those are specific to the kind of cancer, and each type will have its own.

When the information is collected, we can go to many different carriers ahead of time, before you even apply, to get a raw estimate on what result you’ll expect directly from an underwriter of the issuing company.

This is an absolute key part of the process, and any agent who can’t do this for you is under qualified.

The next step is applying.

Do you see how much work has already been completed before even applying? Don’t listen to an agent who wants you to apply just to get some ‘preliminary results’ only to use those results to make the next play.

This will likely result in many more declines, which affect future applications.

Once you apply, expect a long wait. The carrier begins by requesting your doctors records, specialists records, prescription database information, MVR (motor vehicle records), criminal record, and more. In the meantime, you’ll be asked to complete a medical exam, and those results will be added to your file before any consideration will be given.

Only after this lengthy process will you be made an offer, so long as you’re accepted.

More General Rules To Know

For those who have beaten cancer, it’s still going to take time until you can expect the most affordable rates.

Life insurance companies like to see a certain amount of time has passed, with regular follow up, to make sure the cancer has not reinstated itself in some way.

Here are some general waiting period guidelines you might expect (these are subject to change at any time):

Type of CancerWait (in years)
Basal Cell Carcinoma0 – 6 months
Bladder1 – 3
Breast1 – 5
Cervical0 – 1
Colon1 – 6
Esophageal3 – 5
Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma2 – 10+
Kidney1 – 5
Larynx1 – 2
Leukemia3 +
Lung3 – 5
Melanoma1 – 5
Ovarian1 – 7+
Pancreatic2 – 5
Prostate0 – 3
Testicular6 months – 2
Uterine2 – 5

Each of these would vary by carrier, and individual cases would vary widely. These also would be dependent on having no additional health concerns. They speak to the cancer risks only.

In addition to a wait period, your individual scenario may warrant table ratings, which are considered sub-standard ratings for life insurance.

In other words, it’s a percentage of increase in base premium calculated on the amount of determined risk. Each additional ‘table’ is a 50% increase in annual premium.

However, for many who are still battling cancer, none of this may matter, as your current health will likely be far to great of a risk, or even just an unknown risk, to a carrier.

For this reason, you may be declined and need to seek alternative life insurance products.


Because cancer has a higher mortality rate than many other health conditions, many are ineligible from the beginning for fully underwritten contracts if the cancer is still present.

While this is unfortunate, it doesn’t mean there aren’t alternative life insurance solutions for cancer patients.

There are, although they are less commonly known to the public, and even some agents.

Graded, guaranteed, and accident policies are still made available in many cases:

  • Graded – A graded policy is one where there are no exams, few questions, and little to no underwriting. The maximum death benefit may be significantly less than you might need, but it’s a way to get coverage.  Other downsides include higher costs per thousand, and payouts will be limited in the first few years of coverage.
  • Guaranteed – A guaranteed policy is much like the name suggests, it’s guaranteed so long as you meet age and death benefit requirements. Cumulatively, you may only be able to get up to $50,000 in coverage spread over several policies. This is the most expensive kind per thousand, but may be the only life insurance for cancer patients in many instances. It also will have limited or no payout in the first few years, with the exception to accidental death.
  • Accident – Although it’s not a full benefit coverage, accidental will provide a death benefit if the insured dies by way of accident. It will not pay out for any other type of death, especially medical related. The cost of a policy is usually cheaper than you’d expect, even less than standard life insurance, but it’s the least claimed type of death benefit.

Guaranteed life insurance for cancer patients is the most commonly purchased for final expenses, as the benefit can’t be taken away for as long as the insured lives, so long as they make their payments.

Payments are usually level, as well, allowing easy budgeting.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of your current situation, you still have options.

We’re specialized in impaired risk underwriting, and we can help you find a policy which fits your need. With access to many different carriers, we have to freedom and flexibility to do what’s in your best interest.


Jason Fisher

Jason Fisher is the founder and CEO of, LLC. and a multi-state licensed life insurance agent who has helped over a million Americans seek out affordable coverage, compare quotes, or get their family and businesses covered.