If you currently have leukemia, or even if you are in remission, you might be wondering if you qualify for life insurance coverage.
Life insurance underwriters know a lot about leukemia, since researchers and scientists are actively seeking a cure.
New advances in leukemia treatments are frequent, so your life insurance application will not automatically be declined just because of a leukemia diagnosis.
This article will help you understand how a leukemia diagnosis affects life insurance and guide you through the application process.
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Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.
According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, leukemia was the sixth most common cause of cancer death in U.S. men and women between 2012 and 2016. It is also the most common type of cancer in children, adolescents, and young adults.
Leukemia can be caused by environmental hazards, such as exposure to radiation or harmful chemicals or be brought on by a family history of certain types of cancers.
People with a family history of anemia (a condition in which someone doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells) have a higher risk of developing leukemia.
There are four main types of leukemia:
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
- Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)
- Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)
- Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML)
The most common type of leukemia in children, adolescents, and young adults under the age of 20 is ALL, while adults usually develop AML.
As the word “chronic” suggests, CLL and CML are slow-growing forms of leukemia which are not always curable.
CLL affects twice as many men as it does women.
Common symptoms of all types of leukemia include:
- Unexplained or easy bruising
- Pale skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Flu-like symptoms
Leukemia is diagnosed through blood and/or bone marrow tests, in which doctors will determine if blood cell and platelet counts are abnormal.
Treatment plans vary for each type and stage of leukemia, but may include chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants, blood or platelet transfusions, and different types of pharmaceutical drugs.
Survival rates for leukemia patients increase every year, and the illness is now considered to be one of the most curable types of cancers.
Many people who are in remission are living relatively healthy lives. This means life insurance companies may not yet consider a patient who is currently in treatment for leukemia, but could consider one who is in remission.
Each type of leukemia has different risks, recommended treatments, and categorizations.
Life insurance companies will review your application based on certain standardized information, as well as your case-specific details.
Underwriters will probably want to know if you have a family history of leukemia or if you work in an environment which may have caused you to develop leukemia.
If you are actively battling leukemia, you can also expect to provide:
- The date of your diagnosis
- The type of leukemia you were diagnosed with
- The stage of the illness you are currently in
- Your current treatment plan
- Results of lab tests from the last 6-12 months
If you are in remission, you should plan to disclose the following information:
- The date of your original diagnosis and type of leukemia you had
- Whether or not you have experienced symptoms in the last six months
- Specifics about the treatment(s) you received or are currently on
- Proof of regular follow-up visits with your oncologist or hematologist
- Results of any lab tests from the last 6-12 months
Your chances of being approved for life insurance after a leukemia diagnosis are largely dependent on the age at which you were diagnosed, the current stage of the illness or if you are in remission, and any other illnesses or health risks you may have.
The outcomes below assume you are otherwise in generally good health.
If you have been in remission, without symptoms, for more than five years, you can expect a Standard rate, with base premiums and no discounts.
If you have been in remission for less than five years, but have not experienced symptoms within the past six months, you can expect to receive a Sub-Standard health class rate.
You will have to pay higher premiums until you have been in remission for a minimum of five years.
If you remain in remission without symptoms, your premiums may be reduced in the future, after submitting a reconsideration request.
If you are currently in treatment for leukemia, your life insurance application will be reviewed based on your current status and prognosis.
If you have an acute form of leukemia, and are nearing the end of your treatment, you may be able to get a policy.
If your leukemia is chronic, or you have only just begun treatment, your application will likely be declined, since the underwriter cannot determine your potential for surviving the cancer.
Just because you do not qualify for a standard life insurance policy does not mean you are out of options, though.
Non-traditional policies are often an option for individuals who are currently in treatment for leukemia.
You should work with an experienced life insurance agent to determine which companies offer these policies and which is right for you.