Life Insurance for People with Cancer

If you think you can’t buy life insurance because you’ve had cancer, you’re not completely out of luck. While more than 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014, the number of people who actually die from cancer has been decreasing in the past few decades, according to the National Cancer Institute (

In fact, cancer death rates are down 20% since 1991, says the American Cancer Society ( And those decreasing numbers mean that while you most likely won’t be able to buy life insurance in the midst of treatment, some insurance companies may be willing to issue policies after your protocol is finished. “Every carrier that offers coverage which includes an exam will consider someone with a cancer history, subject to several variables,” says Gerry Scholz, National Marketing Director at True Blue Life Insurance.

Types of Life Insurance Coverage

Life insurance comes in two basic types: Term and Permanent or Whole Life Insurance. Term life insurance covers you for a specific period of time, anywhere from, say, 5 years to 20 or 30. It costs less than whole life insurance because you receive nothing at the end of the term. The company pays the face value of the policy only if you die during the term period. Whole life or permanent insurance provides coverage for your entire lifetime and has a savings element that builds cash value over the life of the policy. Because of this element it’s more expensive. (See for more information.) It may be easier for cancer survivors to get whole life insurance, but term may be available for many.

How to look

It may be an option to take out a life insurance policy with your employer if you are still working, and you should take advantage of this if it’s offered; however, if you leave your job, you lose the policy, so it’s always best to purchase an individual policy on your own. True Blue can help with that.
The insurer will want a lot of information, though, and full disclosure is key, says Scholz. “Disclosing the cancer but glossing over other ailments wastes everyone’s time.  Large amounts of coverage are going to be expensive.  However a well informed agent with the right experience can provide the cancer survivor with his or her lowest cost options because he knows which company to take the case to.” Here’s what you’ll likely be asked:

  • What type of cancer did you have? Your ability to get coverage will likely depend on the type of cancer you had, its location and stage, and the curability of the type. (See the X chart below for typical waiting periods.)
  • Are you in remission? Insurers will want to know that you have been told you’re currently cancer-free.
  • How long has it been since your last treatment? Depending upon the type of cancer, the insurer could require a waiting period of anywhere from a few months to ten years.
  • Are you in good health? Other than the cancer diagnosis, do you have any other preexisting medical conditions that could affect your approval? (Think high cholesterol, obesity, high blood pressure, etc…)
  • Can you provide medical records? Because of your diagnosis and treatment, the insurer will ask for copies of your medical records for verification. Make sure to have contact information for any doctor you’ve visited.
  • Have you kept current on all follow-up doctor visits, and have you seen all recommended specialists? An insurance underwriter will follow up on all notes made in a medical file, so if your physician has recommended your see, say, a cardiologist – or any other specialist – make the appointment and follow through.

There are four general ratings for life insurance: preferred plus, preferred, standard, and substandard or table rating. If you’ve had a low-risk cancer like skin, prostate, or early stage breast cancer or testicular cancer, you may be able to get a standard-rate term policy as soon as the typical waiting period for your cancer type is over. For other cancers, insurers will initially charge a higher rate or add on a surcharge for several years, but over time you should be able to lower your premiums.

Your stage in treatment will also decide the types of policies for which you’ll be eligible. (See chart below for your insurance options depending up whether you’re in-treatment or in-remission and beyond).

Currently In Treatment

If you’re currently in treatment, you’ll only be eligible for a guaranteed issue policy, the most expensive type of life insurance, and it may be graded. That means it will only pay a full benefit if you outlive a specific time period set by the insurer. These policies are small – typically between $5,000 and $50,000 – and they’re meant to cover final expenses after you pass on. The policy is guaranteed to be renewed and a medical exam is not required.

Finished Treatment

If you’ve finished treatment and are in remission – but you’re still within the waiting period an insurer requires for your cancer type – you’ll still likely only be able to purchase a guaranteed issue policy. It will still be guaranteed, and it won’t require a medical exam.

Finished Treatment and Past the Waiting Period

Once you’re past the waiting period deemed appropriate by an insurer, you’ll probably be able to purchase a permanent or term life insurance policy. That’s because an underwriter will call you a better risk since you’ve been cancer-free for a specific period of time.

Which Insurance Is Available to You?

Stage Your Insurance Options
Currently Have Cancer Guaranteed Issue
In Remission – Within Waiting Period Guaranteed Issue
In Remission – Out of Waiting Period Permanent or Term Policy (dependent upon type of cancer in some cases)

Policies by Cost – Here’s where the above policies fall in terms of most to least expensive.

Guaranteed Issue

Permanent Issue – Whole Life

Standard Term Life Insurance

How long you’ll have to wait to purchase a policy varies greatly. “Every cancer incident is different,” says Scholz. “Tumor size, furman grade, spreading issues, date since last treatment (including any meds), and concurrent risk factors are as important as the actual type of cancer.” (Below are some typical wait periods for different types of cancer.)

Typical Waiting Periods for Purchase of a Life Insurance Policy

Type of Cancer Likely Waiting Period Other Factors
Breast 1 to 5 years Dependent upon stage
Lung 3 to 5 years With Stage 1 consideration can be three years from end of treatment; Stage 2 is typically 5 years
Colorectal 1 to 6 years Stage 1, 2, and 3 have different waits
Uterine 2 to 5 years Stage 0 or 1 may qualify after 2 years, but rates will be high. After 4 to 5 years rates may be better. Beyond Stage 2, applicants will likely be denied
Hodgkins and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 3 to 10 years Time period is for Stages 1 & 2 only; others will likely be denied
Prostate 6 months to 2 years Stages 1&2, A,B can be as short as 6 months; Stage 3, C is likely 2 years
Bladder 1 to 3 years or greater 1 to 2 for Stage A; 3 or greater for Stage B
Melanoma 1 to 5 years 1 year for early detection; 2 to 5 years for deeper lesions; not at all for metastatic cancer
Testicular 6 months to 2 years 6 months for cancer that has not spread; 2 years for most others
Leukemia 5 to 10 years Dependent upon type; some are not insurable
Kidney 1 to 5 years T0 & T1 wait is 1 to 2 years; T2 & T3 can be up to 5 years
Pancreatic 2 years Waiting period only applies when cancer is detected in early stages; others will be declined
Cervical 0 to 1 year For Stage 1 or in-situ cancer
Esophageal 3 years Dependent upon stage
Larynx 1 year Dependent upon stage
Ovarian 1 to 5 years or more Dependent upon stage and whether or not cancer has metastasized
Bone 5 years or more Dependent upon type; some are not insurable
Basal Cell Carcinoma 0 to 3 months This type may have no waiting period if cancer has not spread

Currently In Treatment

Finally, there are some policies that offer a solution to the life insurance dilemma no matter what type of cancer you’ve had – and even if you’re still undergoing treatment.

Almost anyone can purchase a final expense policy regardless of health, because the approval process relies less on the health of the insured. These policies are designed for people in need of life insurance who may have been denied a policy in the past. At True Blue Life Insurance we offer several options for Final Expense life insurance through guaranteed issue policies that often require buying directly from the insurance company – and you can receive approval the same day – and there is absolutely no medical exam at all. It is a perfect solution for people who have had cancer in the past. Often, these policies are graded, meaning there is a two year exclusion period for them to pay out in full. They are also generally limited to anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 maximum.

Cancer is something that more and more people are surviving every day. But life insurance is about preparing for the unexpected in life and when a positive test for cancer hits your family, it is a big wakeup call that you must plan for life before the unexpected happens.

Top 5 Cancer Diagnoses for Women and Men

Women Breast
Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Men Prostate


About Brian Greenberg

Brian started his financial career working for Metlife Insurance Company. Using his internet skills, he decided to pursue a better way to provide customers with life insurance by building a quoting engine and underwriting fulfilment process. With True Blue Life Insurance, Brian is licensed to sell life, health, and annuities throughout the United States. He is committed to constantly improving the online life insurance process.
20 replies
  1. margarita
    margarita says:

    my fiancee has cancer . i currently insurance for $25k w gerber adult and would like to combine and obtain more whole life insurances for him…please contact me thanks…margarita

  2. evan
    evan says:

    I was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 after surgery radiation n chemo im doing fairly well. I’m looking for a company that i can purchase life insurance with. I currently have a policy that will expire in a few years. Is there a company that will issue another term life policy?

  3. Shoneeka Cross
    Shoneeka Cross says:


    I would like to speak to someone regarding my father, he had throat cancer and finished Chemotherapy.

    Please contact me via phone 206-724-9652.

    Thanks in advance

  4. tiffany phillips
    tiffany phillips says:

    My sister just found out see has breast cancer and I will like to get some life insurance for her she 33 years old.

  5. william king
    william king says:

    My sister just found out she have brest cancel I want to know can she buy life insurance , if so I would like a quote

  6. Tam
    Tam says:

    My brother was exposed to an unknown chemical, doctors aren’t sure if they can find and fix it, and the situation looks grim. He is 55, slender of build, nonsmoker, non drinker, no drugs. His wife is also a nonsmoker, nondrinker, no drugs, so no second hand exposure. I am looking for final expense I think-in case the doctors cannot find/treat the exposure. Please contact me as soon as possible. He lives in Alaska.

  7. kimberly
    kimberly says:

    My brother just found out a 2 weeks ago he has stage 4 colon cancer than has spread to his liver and a tumor that is cancerous. They have removed his colon because it qas not repairable. They are waiting for about two more weeks to start chemo treatment. What are his opinions for life insurance?

    • Brian Greenberg
      Brian Greenberg says:

      Sorry to hear about your brother. The only options we have are guaranteed issue policies. You can run quotes to see the pricing here . The thing to be aware of is that the guaranteed acceptance policies have a graded benefit period of at least 2 years. What this mean is if the insured passes from a health related condition in the first 2 years, they do not pay the full death benefit. What they typically do is refund all the premium payments you made into the policy, plus 10%.

  8. Theresa
    Theresa says:

    I was dianosed with Cervical cancer stage 2 in Jan 2014 Been giving the NED every since. Since its been 2 years and 3 months not sure on what insurance plan is best for me.
    Thank you

    • Brian Greenberg
      Brian Greenberg says:

      A cancer diagnosis can be tricky. Most companies require remission for 3 years. Some require 5 years of remission. If you need coverage quickly we have guaranteed acceptance life policies… we would like to do a more thorough search for a lower cost policy after you have 3 years of remission.
      An accidental policy may make sense as well to offer your family additional coverage. This is a policy that covers accidental death (not health related).

      • Reggo
        Reggo says:

        My brother has been diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer and given 6 months to live is there any coverage out there for him

        • Brian Greenberg
          Brian Greenberg says:

          Very sorry to hear about your brother. We do not have any type of life insurance to offer your brother at this time. The Guaranteed Acceptance policies have a 2 year exclusion period in which they do not pay the full benefit if the insured dies do to any health related cause. They simply refund all the premium paid in, plus 10%.

    • Brian Greenberg
      Brian Greenberg says:

      She is eligible for Guaranteed Acceptance life insurance. Most insurers require cancer to be in remission for at least 2 years before they would consider either a term or whole life policy.
      A Guaranteed Acceptance policy is a whole life policy in that it can never be cancelled, and the rates can never go up. Guaranteed Acceptance policies can be expensive and offer coverage amounts from 5,000 – 25,000. Some companies offer up to $40,000 in coverage.
      The last thing to be aware of is these policies have either a 2 or 3 year exclusion period in which they do not pay the full benefit amount if death occurs within this exclusion period due to health conditions (accidents are covered).
      If this happens all the premiums paid are returned, plus 10% typically. So if you paid $1000 in premiums, you will receive $1100 back from the insurance company.

  9. Peter
    Peter says:

    Have you ever managed to get someone insured who had eye cancer (uveal melanoma, ocular melanoma or choroidal melanoma, none are skin cancer), especially after 5 years or more of no spreading fro eye to rest of body?

    • Brian Greenberg
      Brian Greenberg says:

      After 5 years of remission you can absolutely get a policy. The companies will request reports from your doctors to confirm treatment and current status of the cancer. In this situation we like to get as much information from you as possible, and then shop your situation informally to several insurance companies before officially applying. We may even be able to pay for your medical records to provide to the insurance carriers, so we can know exactly what company will make you the best offer.


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