Life insurance for cancer patients and survivors

Most cancer patients are not eligible for life insurance. But people who have recovered from cancer are usually able to get coverage.

Amanda Shih author photoHeadshot of Policygenius editor Nupur Gambhir

By

Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

&Nupur Gambhir

Nupur Gambhir

Senior Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Nupur Gambhir is a licensed life, health, and disability insurance expert and a former senior editor at Policygenius. Her insurance expertise has been featured in Bloomberg News, Forbes Advisor, CNET, Fortune, Slate, Real Simple, Lifehacker, The Financial Gym, and the end-of-life planning service Cake.

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Your health history plays a large role on your life insurance rates. If you are currently in cancer treatment, you probably cannot get traditional life insurance coverage.

However, cancer survivors are usually able to get a policy. Depending on your diagnosis, your current health status, and your treatment history, there are options available, though not all options will be the most cost-effective. Most insurers will want to see that you have been cancer-free for over five years, but every insurance company’s decision will vary depending on your situation.

The right coverage will depend heavily on your specific medical history, so it's best to shop around and work with a licensed agent or broker to choose the right policy.

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Can you get life insurance if you have cancer?

Many insurers won't consider you for a policy until you're a few years out from your diagnosis or last treatment. Whether you can get life insurance as a cancer patient varies based on a few factors:

  • Date of diagnosis

  • Stage/severity of diagnosis

  • Treatment history

  • Type of cancer

The more complex your cancer history, the harder it will be to qualify for coverage. More severe diagnoses, more recent diagnoses, and more rounds of treatment will likely raise your rates. 

There are often exceptions for non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. 

Life insurance policies for people with cancer

If you're currently in treatment or if you had a cancer diagnosis within the last two to four years, you may not qualify for term or whole life insurance. People over age 50 can qualify for guaranteed issue life insurance, which offers near-certain approval but is costly.

If you're under age 50, you may be able to get some coverage through a workplace group life insurance policy. These offer limited coverage but rarely have medical qualifications.

Life insurance for cancer survivors

People who have been declared in remission and are a certain number of years past their final treatment will face fewer issues finding coverage. During the underwriting process, the life insurance company will review three main parts of your cancer history:

  • Date you were diagnosed with cancer

  • Date of your last cancer treatment

  • Type and severity of cancer you had

  • Recurrences

  • Any complications you may have experienced

Your entire health history is taken into account during underwriting in addition to how much time has elapsed since your diagnosis and treatment. Certain cancer diagnoses can lead to better rates than others based on the assumed mortality risk of those cancers. For example, someone who had skin cancer will often pay less than someone who had lung or pancreatic cancer.

→ Learn more about life insurance for cancer survivors

Best life insurance companies for cancer survivors

The best life insurance company for you depends on your cancer history, recovery, and current health. 

However, Symetra offers some of the best coverage for cancer survivors. Symetra offers comparatively low rates to people who have had breast, cervical, colon, prostate, skin, testicular, or thyroid cancer. To be eligible for their Preferred rates, which means some of the best possible premiums, you cannot have had any recurrences. 

Life insurance for breast cancer survivors 

A few insurers may consider covering people with Stage 1 or Stage 0 breast cancer.

But, for the most part, policies will be more widely available after you have been in remission for a few years. While most breast cancer survivors will be able to get a Standard Plus health classification, or subpar life insurance rates, Lincoln offers some of the best life insurance rates to breast cancer survivors if they had stage 0 and depending on their background.

Some life insurance companies are not suitable for breast cancer survivors, and it is best to work with an agent to find an insurer that will offer you the most affordable coverage.

Life insurance for prostate cancer survivors 

Most prostate cancer survivors receive Standard rates (some of the lowest rates) across the board after they’ve been in remission for over five years. To get coverage before, you may have to pay a flat extra of $5 to $10 per month. However, most prostate cancer survivors will not be able to get coverage if they have been in remission for less than three years. 

Life insurance for people with a family history of cancer

Since some types of cancer can be passed down from parent to child, insurers will ask if there is a family history of cancer among your biological relatives. You'll be asked:

  • Who in your family had cancer

  • What their diagnosis was

  • When they were diagnosed

  • Whether they went into remission

Every insurance company treats a family history of cancer differently; some won't ask about it at all. Having a family member with cancer may affect your rates with one provider, but you could be able to get the best available rates with another.

For example, different insurers will consider you more or less risky depending on whether:

  • Your family member survived their cancer diagnosis before age 60 or 65

  • Your parents have had cancer, but not whether your siblings have

  • You are the same sex as a family member who had a sex-specific cancer, like testicular cancer

Being a current cancer patient, having a family history of cancer, or being in cancer remission raises flags for insurers, but not every cancer diagnosis will have the same effect on your life insurance. Compare coverage with the help of an independent broker to identify which policy is the best fit for your entire personal profile.

Frequently asked questions

Does COVID-19 affect the life insurance application process or eligibility?

Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, some insurers are modifying processes and/or imposing coverage restrictions on certain health conditions or age groups. Speak to a Policygenius agent for free to find out how to get the most affordable policy.

Can I get life insurance if I had cancer?

Yes. Insurers offer coverage to cancer survivors. Though your coverage will depend on the type of cancer you had, how long you’ve been in remission, and your treatment plan. Alternative life insurance policies, such as guaranteed-issue, are also available but cost more.

Does life insurance test for cancer?

No, insurers do not test for cancer. But because insurers look at your previous medical records, they will be aware of any cancer diagnoses you have had. You should disclose a cancer diagnosis and your treatment plan when you apply for life insurance.