Can I Get Life Insurance with Cancer?

pink cancer ribbon
Fiona Staff5/6/2022

On average, about 1 in every 3 American adults will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. These odds make it easy to see that cancer will likely affect you, or at least someone you know, as the years go on.

For many of us, talking about cancer also makes us think about our own mortality and the importance of having a strong financial safety net for those we love — like a life insurance policy. But if you’re currently battling cancer, are a cancer survivor, or even have a family history of cancer, can you buy life insurance coverage? And if so, is it more expensive (or difficult) to do?

Here’s a look at what to expect if you’re trying to buy life insurance with cancer, or want to plan for buying a policy with a history of cancer.

Buying Life Insurance With Cancer

Being diagnosed with cancer can be a scary time, regardless of your prognosis. Thinking about the future may also have you thinking about your family’s financial situation and, in turn, life insurance coverage.

However, buying a life insurance policy while you’re still undergoing cancer treatment can be a tall order. That’s because most term and permanent life carriers will want to see that you are in remission and that your cancer is managed before they will underwrite a policy for you. This really comes down to factors like:

  • The type of cancer you have

  • How long you’ve been in treatment

  • Your prognosis

With that said, there is still at least one life insurance coverage option available to you: a guaranteed issue policy. As the name suggests, these policies offer guaranteed acceptance to all applicants, regardless of age or medical status. This form of permanent life insurance coverage will last you the rest of your life, but is usually limited in terms of the coverage you’re allowed to buy. 

Depending on your circumstances, you may only be offered enough coverage to pay for things like final expenses, medical bills, or shared debt you may leave behind (like a credit card). Guaranteed issue policies are often more expensive than term life or other permanent life insurance options. However, they can also be a last resort for many individuals who might not otherwise qualify for coverage.

Not sure what kind of life insurance policy you need, or how much coverage it’ll take to protect your family? Fiona can help match you with the right coverage and plan for your situation.

Buying Life Insurance as a Cancer Survivor

Let’s say that you had cancer in the past, but are now in remission. (What great news!) When it comes time to shop around for a new life insurance policy, you can expect your previous cancer diagnosis to come up… but it doesn’t necessarily preclude you from buying coverage.

You may need to wait a few years

To ensure that you are truly in remission, some carriers may require you to wait a period of time before applying for life insurance. This may vary by carrier as well as the type of cancer you had, but could range from six months to five years. 

After the five-year period, you can expect your life insurance options to broaden quite a bit.

Expect your coverage to cost more

A history of cancer does make you a higher risk in the eyes of most carriers. As a result, your premiums may be more than if you didn’t have previous cancer treatment.

Depending on the type of cancer and how long you’ve been in remission, though, the impact can be negligible. For example, if you’re five years out from lung cancer treatment, your premiums may be higher than if you had skin cancer 20 years ago.

You may be limited in what you can buy

If your type of cancer has a more limited prognosis, or if you haven’t been in remission for long, you may not be able to buy certain types of insurance coverage — at least, until a longer period of time has passed. In some cases, you may even be denied coverage if you’re looking to buy a typical term or whole life policy.

Buying With a Family History of Cancer

If you have a notable family history of cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are guaranteed to also get cancer. It can mean that you have a higher risk of getting diagnosed, though, especially with certain forms of cancer. 

Life insurance carriers are all about mitigating risk, and that means spending some time figuring out how much risk an applicant poses. This is why applying for life insurance generally means submitting to a paramedical exam, as well as filling out an application with questions about your own medical history and the history of your family.

It’s important to be honest about any medical history you or your close family members may have when filling out your application. The carrier will take this into consideration when determining your policy options and premiums.

Bottom Line

Cancer is a disease that touches nearly every family in America in some way. Whether you have cancer currently, are in remission, or just have a strong family history of cancer, buying life insurance coverage could be at the forefront of your mind. 

While buying a policy could mean jumping through a few extra hoops — or even paying higher premiums — cancer won’t necessarily stop you from getting the coverage you need.

Not sure what sort of life insurance coverage is available to you? Fiona, in partnership with Leap Life, makes it easy to get matched with personalized life insurance quotes from A-rated (or higher) carriers across the country. Agents are available to help you through the process and answer any questions you may have along the way.

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