Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial research influence how products appear on a page. Insurance Life Insurance Life Insurance for Cancer Patients and Survivors Updated Jun 14, 2023   |   8-min read Written by Christy Rakoczy Written by Christy Rakoczy Expertise: Student loans, mortgages, insurance Christy Rakoczy has been a personal finance and legal writer since 2008. She has a Juris Doctor degree from UCLA School of Law and was a college instructor before she began writing for the web. Learn more about Christy Rakoczy Buying life insurance is important in order to make sure that your family is protected if something happens to you. There are different types of insurance including a term life insurance policy and whole life insurance. An insurance agent can help you determine which type of policy is right for you. There are other terms to learn about with life insurance, including permanent life insurance and group life insurance. Life insurance can be useful if anyone depends upon your income, whether that’s your spouse to help pay the mortgage, your kids to help pay for college, or your aging parents to help pay for their care. You also need life insurance if anyone depends on your services. For example, stay-at-home parents provide valuable childcare, housekeeping, transportation, and other services that would likely need to be paid for if the parent wasn’t available. Life insurance options are a good way to protect your loved ones. This guide will help you to understand life insurance and cancer, so you can be ready to find the right coverage for your needs. On this page: Life Insurance and CancerHow is the Cost of a Life Insurance Policy Determined?How Does Cancer Influence the Cost of a Life Insurance PolicyWhat are the Best Life Insurance Policies for People With Terminal Cancer?Can You Get Life Insurance if You’re a Cancer Survivor?Does a Family History of Cancer Affect Your Ability to Get Life Insurance? Life Insurance and Cancer It’s best to buy life insurance when you are healthy and young because you’ll get the most affordable premiums and won’t have trouble qualifying for a policy. Often, though, people don’t buy life insurance until they’re older and have had some serious health issues. For example, many people want to buy life insurance after a diagnosis of cancer, such as skin cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, testicular cancer or any other type of the disease. >> Read More: Cancer insurance guide Because cancer is a serious illness and some types of cancer have very high fatality rates, buying life insurance after a cancer diagnosis can be difficult. Depending upon where you are in your cancer care, you may be very limited in what insurance plans you’re able to obtain, and you may have to pay very high premiums for coverage. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get life insurance for cancer patients or as a cancer survivor— you just need to know what types of policies you can obtain, and what you can expect as far as costs. How is the Cost of a Life Insurance Policy Determined? Life insurance companies typically don’t just give insurance to everyone who applies. Instead, there’s an underwriting process that takes place. Life insurance underwriting involves assessing the risk that’s being insured against. In the case of life insurance, that means underwriters consider the risk that the policyholder will die while covered. Underwriters determine if the risk is so high that the applicant should be denied coverage. Underwriters also set premiums and life insurance rates for those who are eligible for a policy, with higher-risk individuals paying higher costs. During the underwriting process for a life insurance policy, underwriters want to look at all of the information available that sheds light on the likelihood you’ll pass away and the policy will have to pay the death benefit. Some of the key factors underwriters consider include: Your ageYour genderWhether you currently smoke or have smoked beforeLifestyle risks, such as whether you engage in high-risk activities like skydivingYour health status, including medical conditions you currently have or have had in the past (for example your cancer history) Different insurance companies have different standards for underwriting. That means the impact of a medical problem, such as a cancer diagnosis, won’t be uniform across all providers. Some insurers may be more willing to give you coverage than others, and prices will vary from policy to policy. How Does Cancer Influence the Cost of a Life Insurance Policy Once you have been diagnosed with cancer, insurers typically view you as a much riskier person to insure. That’s because there’s a greater chance you’ll pass away of cancer while covered by the policy, compared with someone who has never had a diagnosis of a serious ailment. But, not all cancers are created equal, and not everyone with cancer has the same prognosis. So, cancer patients and cancer survivors are treated differently based on a few key factors that affect mortality rates. The insurer will consider: The type of cancer you haveThe stage of cancerWhether you’re currently in a treatment plan and complying with medical adviceWhether you are now cancer-free and, if so, how long you have been cancer free Life insurance companies typically divide policyholders into different classes when setting premiums. These classes include: preferred plus, preferred, standard, and substandard. Someone who had cancer a long time ago and who had a type of cancer considered very treatable— such as breast cancer or prostate cancer—may be classified as “standard,” whereas someone with cancers considered less treatable, such as leukemia, would likely be considered substandard. And, those with metastatic cancer are likely to be denied a policy entirely from most insurers because mortality rates are too high. If premiums are too costly to afford or if you’re denied coverage, don’t give up hope—you may be able to get covered or prices may fall if you beat cancer. This is especially true as more time passes since becoming disease-free. Quitting smoking and taking required medications can also help you to reduce premium costs too. What are the Best Life Insurance Policies for People With Terminal Cancer? When you have terminal cancer types, insurers view you as very high risk because your cancer will likelyresult in your death. That makes getting standard coverage difficult or impossible. But, this doesn’t mean you can’t get life insurance coverage at all. One of the best options available to you may be to buy a guaranteed-issue life insurance policy. While guaranteed issue policies have lower coverage limits than other types of policies, they do provide an option when you have no other way to get covered. If you want to make sure your family has money to pay for funeral costs and funds to help them get by in the months after your death, a guaranteed issue policy is one of your best options. Graded benefit policies may also be available to you, even after a terminal cancer diagnosis. With graded benefit policies, you get only a portion of the death benefit in the early years of coverage. For example, you might get 25% of the death benefit if you die during the first year of policy ownership, 50% in year two, 75% in the third year, and 100% only after you have been covered for four years. Thus, your insurer isn’t taking as big of a risk, which makes getting approved easier, even after a cancer diagnosis. Can You Get Life Insurance if You’re a Cancer Survivor? Once you’ve been cured of your cancer and your new diagnosis is No Evidence of Disease (NED), then it’s much easier to get coverage. Most insurers will provide you with a policy, although you may still be classified as a standard or substandard policyholder instead of a preferred or preferred plus candidate because of your medical history. However, if a long time has passed since your diagnosis and if your cancer is considered unlikely to reoccur, you could eventually fall into the low-risk category and coverage would be very affordable. To maximize the chances you’ll be approved quickly and at a good rate, have your medical records ready when you apply for coverage. Make sure your records clearly show you’re currently cancer free. The more comprehensive your records, the better your chances of timely approval for a low-cost policy. Does a Family History of Cancer Affect Your Ability to Get Life Insurance? A cancer diagnosis can affect your ability to get affordable life insurance, even if you weren’t the person who was diagnosed. That’s because life insurers ask about your family medical history. Typically, the focus is on parents and siblings, and life insurers are usually looking to find out if family members developed cancer or other serious medical conditions when they were young. A family history of cancer could mean you’re genetically predisposed to get sick yourself, which makes you appear as a higher-risk policyholder. This drives up your premiums. However, your own health history and lifestyle habits will carry more weight, so as long as you aren’t sick yourself and don’t engage in high-risk behaviors, you should still be able to get covered. You may just have to pay a slightly higher rate thanks to a family health history an insurer finds troubling. You Can Get Life Insurance Even with a Cancer Diagnosis While it’s frustrating to try to shop for life insurance after being diagnosed with a serious health condition, you do not need a perfect medical history to get covered. You can get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis—even if the diagnosis is terminal. You just need to find the right type of policy, compare all your options, and shop around for the most affordable coverage.