Can You Get Life Insurance with Cancer?

Posted on February 25, 2021

A cancer diagnosis impacts every aspect of your life, even how you shop for life insurance.

Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been in remission for a while, you may wonder if your cancer will disqualify you from purchasing a life insurance policy to protect your family.

The short answer is that, yes, you can get life insurance with cancer. However, your diagnosis may complicate the process, including what types of policy you may be able to purchase and how much you’re going to pay for coverage.

How Your Type of Cancer Impacts Life Insurance

Because there are so many different types of cancer, life insurance companies often evaluate the risk of insuring patients based on the type of cancer they have, as well as whether or not that cancer is in remission.

Localized Cancer Diagnosis

If your cancer is localized, meaning it only occurs in one place or organ on your body, you are considered a medium risk for life insurance companies.

Your cancer diagnosis still makes you more risky to insure than someone who doesn’t have cancer, but because your cancer has not moved into other parts of your body you are deemed to be less of a risk to the insurance company.

Metastatic Cancer Diagnosis

For those whose cancer has metastasized, or spread to more than one part of the body, insurance companies consider them higher risk.

Having metastatic cancer could mean you get rejected for life insurance, as your chances of additional complications or even early death are higher than those with localized cancer. If you are approved for life insurance coverage, the insurance company may charge you more in premiums than it would charge other people.

Moderate Risk Cancer Types

The type of cancer with which you are diagnosed also plays into how an insurance company assesses your risk.

Those with non-melanoma skin cancer with low risk of extra complications are, after a clean bill of health otherwise and several years post-treatment, may qualify for preferred rate life insurance because they are considered lower risk to insurance companies.

People with breast cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and thyroid cancer are often considered moderate risk to life insurance companies, especially the longer they’ve been in remission.

High Risk Cancer Types

Insurance companies deem patients with certain types of cancer, such as melanoma or cervical cancer, can qualify for life insurance at nonstandard rates after several years of remission.

If you have leukemia, pancreatic cancer, or colon cancer, your diagnosis is often seen as too risky for life insurance companies to cover, and may lead to you a denial. In some cases, you may be able to get high-cost coverage after several years in remission and an otherwise clean bill of health, but it doesn’t happen often.

Life Insurance After Cancer Remission

In many cases, life insurance companies will consider your risk much less the more years between your remission and your application for life insurance.

For many people who want to purchase life insurance but still dealing with active cancer, a guaranteed life insurance policy may be the only option.

This type of whole life insurance policy is more expensive per dollar of coverage than other types of life insurance, but they do not require the same level of medical review that other policies require. 

Additionally, guaranteed life insurance policies have lower death benefits - usually between $25,000 and $50,000 - helping to provide at least something for your family in the event of your death.

Guaranteed life insurance policies also have waiting periods where, if you die within two to three years after purchasing coverage, the company will not pay out your full death benefits. In these cases, the company is likely to pay out as much as you’ve put in from paying premiums, and there’s often an additional 5 to 10 percent added on for interest.

Why Is It Difficult for Cancer Patients to Get Life Insurance?

Cancer is among the highest-risk diseases for life insurance companies, meaning that the life insurance company assumes a great deal of risk that you will die early when they insure you.

Because of this, many insurance companies may either deny coverage to cancer patients, or they limit the types of coverage they can purchase. Purchasing life insurance with cancer also comes with much higher premiums than would be paid by a similarly aged person without cancer.

Life Insurance with a Family History of Cancer

Even if you yourself do not have cancer, a family history of cancer can make it more difficult to get affordable life insurance.

How much of an impact your family history makes on your life insurance policy depends on specific details of your family’s medical history.

In these cases, insurers usually want to know:

  • The type of cancer because certain types of cancer are more likely to be genetic than others
  • The number of relatives diagnosed with cancer and how you were related to them, as these factors can indicate how likely you are to be diagnosed
  • The age at which your relative was diagnosed with cancer. The older your relative was at diagnosis, the less likely your insurance rates are to be impacted than if they were diagnosed while they were young.

Health Factors That Impact the Cost of Life Insurance with Cancer

The best chance you have of qualifying for life insurance following a cancer diagnosis is to stay as healthy as you can.

Depending on the insurer and the type of cancer you had, you may have to wait between two and five years from the time of your last cancer treatment before being approved for a life insurance policy. 

When you apply for a life insurance policy, the insurer will ask a series of questions regarding your diagnosis and treatment to determine your risk, including:

  • When you were diagnosed
  • If you have any family history of cancer
  • The type of cancer you had, its stage, and whether it metastasized
  • The treatments you underwhen, when they began, and the date of your last treatment
  • Whether you’re in remission and how long you’ve been in remission
  • Where your cancer was located, its size, and whether or not it affected your lymph nodes
  • If you’ve had any relapses
  • Any medications you’re currently taking
  • Whether you’ve had any other health problems, regardless of whether or not they’re related to your cancer

The more detail you can provide your insurance company, especially if you have medical records to back up your answers, the better off your application will be.

Choosing the Best Life Insurance Policy with Cancer

Choosing the right life insurance policy for your needs may be challenging with cancer, but it doesn’t have to be impossible.

To help you choose the best life insurance policy with cancer, here are some guidelines to follow when shopping for coverage:

Type of Policy

As a general rule, term life insurance has the lowest rates on premiums because policies are only in effect for a specific number of years, and they don’t hold any cash value.

If you’re purchasing life insurance so that your spouse will be able to pay off your home or so your children have funds to attend college, a term policy may be the most economical choice for you. Many term policies can be converted into whole life policies without any extra underwriting, so later complications from your cancer won’t be considered when you convert your policy.

However, term life insurance policies can be hard to come by if you’ve had cancer.

In this case, you may have to purchase a whole life insurance policy. This option stays in place for your entire life and may allow you to provide an inheritance or later-in-life support for your spouse.

Whole life insurance policies do come with higher premiums, but being careful to purchase only as much coverage as you really need can make them more affordable and help to offset the price increase that comes with your cancer diagnosis.

Level of Underwriting

Life insurance policies come with two levels of underwriting: fully underwritten and no medical exam policies.

If you elect a fully underwritten policy, you will need to submit to a medical exam prior to receiving a decision. Since you have been diagnosed with cancer, this medical exam could be problematic when qualifying for insurance and at a lower premium.

For those who are worried about going through a medical exam, a no medical exam policy may be a good choice.

These policies do have their drawbacks, however. The amount of coverage available is lower than traditional policies, often limited to $500,000 for term policies and $50,000 for whole policies. When you apply for no medical exam policies, it is essential to fully and truthfully fill out the medical questionnaire, as omitting or lying about information can work against you.

Amount of Coverage

The amount of coverage you end up purchasing will be determined based on several factors, including:

  • Whether you currently have a mortgage or other debt that will need to be paid
  • Your salary
  • Your financial obligations, such as child support
  • Ages of your children

If you’re concerned about the price of your coverage, you can adjust the amount of coverage you purchase to reduce your premiums.

What If You Are Diagnosed with Cancer After Buying Life Insurance?

Thankfully, once you have purchased a life insurance policy and that policy has been issued, the insurance carrier cannot cancel your policy or alter your rates if you are diagnosed with cancer. So, if you purchase a term or whole life insurance policy and are later diagnosed with cancer, your diagnosis will not impact your policy.

There are, however, a few situations where a cancer diagnosis can be a problem even if you already have life insurance coverage:

  • You want to continue term life insurance coverage after your policy ends: If you already have a term life insurance policy and want to purchase another term life insurance policy, you will be subject to the underwriting process again. This will happen even if your second policy is through the same insurance company. This new underwriting process could cause your insurer to reject your application or charge you higher premiums.
  • You have group life insurance through an employer and leave your job: When you leave a job, you may be given the opportunity to convert or port your coverage from your employer. Converting or porting your policy doesn’t require you to undergo further medical review, but this is often more expensive than purchasing your own coverage.
  • You want to increase the limits on your policy: Electing to increase your policy limits often requires additional underwriting, meaning your cancer diagnosis could cause an increase in your premiums.


Living with cancer can be scary and make you feel uncertain about where your life is going, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get life insurance. By carefully examining your life insurance options and being willing to make some compromises for coverage, you can purchase a life insurance policy to help your family have financial security.

With Insurdinary’s life insurance comparison tool, you can view multiple plans from a variety of carriers, get a personalized quote, and apply for coverage without leaving the house.Get your quote today!

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