Life Insurance for Cancer Survivors

You may find it difficult to obtain cover if you were previously diagnosed with and recovered from a cancer diagnosis. Your eligibility for life insurance will depend on the nature and staging of your cancer as providers may see you as risky to insure. Obtaining cover may be more expensive and may be more difficult to get.

Published June 9, 2020

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Can you get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis?

You can potentially get life insurance after a cancer diagnosis, but this can depend on many factors, including the type and staging of the cancer and the type of treatment you had received. This will generally be determined by assessing several factors, including the date of diagnosis, time in remission, cancer type, and the guidelines set by the insurer.

Getting life insurance with cancer may also involve higher premiums, depending on the type of cancer you had. You may want to look into getting life insurance quotes for cancer survivors from different providers to see which one best suits your requirements.

Most common cancers in Australia

There are many different types of cancers that can affect different parts of the body. Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in Australia, and it’s estimated that there could be around 150,000 new cases diagnosed in 2020. The total cost of cancer on the health system sits at over $4.5 billion. These are some of the most common types of cancer in Australia.

Breast Cancer

The most common cancer experienced by Australian women is breast cancer. There are 53 new cases diagnosed each day, but fortunately, Australia’s breast cancer survival rate is one of the best worldwide. Although there are more and more women being diagnosed with breast cancer, the mortality rate has been dropping in recent years.

Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the number one cancer diagnosed in men in Australia. It is slow-growing, and unfortunately, many men can go for years without realising they have it, which is why it is important for men, particularly over the age of 40 to have annual check-ups. Unfortunately, over 3.500 men in Australia die from prostate cancer annually, much higher than the mortality rate for breast cancer.

Skin (Melanoma) Cancer

Melanoma, also known as skin cancer was the fourth most common cancer diagnosed in Australians in 2019 with over 15,000 cases. It affects both men and women, but men have a slightly higher rate of infection.

Buying life insurance after cancer

Cancer survivors are generally eligible for life insurance, though the terms and conditions may differ from standard life insurance policies. People diagnosed with cancer in the last two to four years, or those who had more intense treatments are considered to be more at risk by insurance companies. The insurance available is dependant on many factors, such as the type of cancer, the staging of the cancer, and the doctor’s diagnosis. Giving the insurer all the necessary information is typically the first step towards getting a policy. The following are some of the most commonly required information that may be requested by the insurer.

  • The date you were first diagnosed – This will be the day you first found out you had cancer
  • Relapse or recurrence – Has there been any relapse or reoccurrence of cancer?
  • If you’re in remission, how long have you been cancer-free? – You typically have to state when was the last time you were treated and when the doctor confirmed you were in remission.
  • The type of cancer you were diagnosed with – Is it breast cancer, thyroid cancer etc.
  • Histology report, including TNM staging and grade of cancer – These are typically the grading of the cancer which you can usually obtain from the doctor who has been treating you.
  • Type of treatment received and when it was completed – Did you have a tumour removed or receive chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other? Date of your last treatment?
  • If you have a family history of cancer – Have any of your immediate family members had cancer in the past, such as siblings or parents?
  • Any medications you are currently taking or were previously prescribed – Provide a list of any medications you are or were previously taking to treat the cancer.

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Your acceptance status depends on your stage of cancer, the treatment received and length of time in remission.

Staging

One of the main factors taken into consideration by an insurer when assessing your application is the stage of cancer you were diagnosed with. The staging of cancer is used to describe how advanced it is in the body. This is generally determined through biopsy, X-rays and other procedures.

The histology is also important and should include the TNM staging. The staging is as follows:

Or

By knowing the stage of cancer, insurers can generally get an understanding of how severe your cancer was and how likely you are to survive.

Stage 0 – Stage 0 generally means that there is a presence of abnormal cells present in the body, but they have not yet spread to the surrounding areas. If you have Stage 0 or Tis staging and have Melanoma, Breast, or Prostate cancer, there may be a chance of getting cover at standard rates meaning no additional loadings (additional costs) would be attached. This is would only be the case if you had fully recovered from the cancer and had no prior reoccurrences.

Stage 1 or T1A – This is typically one of the first stages of cancer. At this stage, patients can generally receive some sort of cover, but it will depend on factors such as the type of cancer and when it was treated. There may be additional costs compared to a standard policy.

Stage 1B to Stage 2 – This stage is more advanced than in earlier stages. Cover is still generally available depending on factors like how far it has spread, and the type of cancer. In these stages, there are typically higher loadings attached, as well as longer wait times.

Stage 3 – This stage would generally indicate that the cancer had metastasised or had spread to the lymph nodes. At this advanced stage; historically, we have found that it would be extremely difficult for you to be able to receive any coverage. Generally speaking, in this instance, you should request a pre-assessment from several insurers to see if you may be eligible to obtain cover.

Treatment

The type of treatment you received is also an important factor the insurer may take into consideration. Types of treatment most common would include tumour removal or surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or medication. Insurers would also consider the date your treatment was completed.

Remission

The amount of time you have been in remission for is generally an indication of the likelihood that cancer may reoccur. The longer you have been in remission, the less likely it is likely to reappear. Statistically, cancer is most likely to reoccur in the first five years after ending treatment. The longer you have been in remission for, the more favourable of an outcome the insurer may present.

Will life insurance be more expensive for cancer survivors?

Life Insurance is generally more expensive for cancer survivors. However, the premiums will typically depend on the additional risk factors you may potentially pose to the insurer. The lower the risk factors, the more likely the premiums (price) will be standard; however, the higher the risk factors, the higher the premiums will be if cover is available at all.

If you are looking into obtaining cover through a broker, it is generally a good idea to ask for a pre-assessment before applying for a policy.

Secondly, you may also want to contact your superannuation fund to understand if they will offer you cover (or additional cover), as they can have different, little or no underwriting of people looking to take out insurance. However, it would be essential to fully explore the cover it provides, any exclusions and eligibility criteria, including reviewing the product disclosure statement to understand if it meets your requirements.

Does life insurance cover cancer?

If you currently have a life insurance policy, your beneficiaries will generally receive the lump sum benefit should you pass away due to natural causes, including cancer as per the terms and conditions of your policy. When looking at applying for life insurance, it may be worth checking with different providers to see which one suits your requirements.

If you currently have cancer or are undergoing treatment for cancer and have an active insurance policy, it is important that you contact your insurance provider to understand what coverage you may have; whether this includes trauma insurance or an income protection policy as you may potentially be eligible to make a claim if you meet the terms and conditions of the policy.

Frequently asked questions and answers

  • Do you have to disclose to the insurer that you have or had cancer?

    Yes, according to the law, it’s compulsory to disclose all relevant information to the insurer when submitting an application, including any past or current medical conditions.
  • How long after cancer can you take out life insurance?

    The time it takes to take out life insurance after cancer typically varies on how long you have been in remission, which is generally between two, five years or more. This may vary depending on your chosen provider and your specific condition.
  • Will trauma insurance cover cancer?

    Yes, in general, trauma insurance will provide you with a lump-sum payment if you were to be diagnosed with a critical illness, including cancer as well as a host of other diseases, as long as you meet the definition as provided in the Product Disclosure Statement of your chosen insurer.
  • What if you’re cancer-free, but have a family history of cancer?

    You have to disclose your family’s medical history to your insurer when applying for a policy. Insurers are looking for risk factors that could affect you later in life, for example, a family history of breast cancer. Each company has its own set of guidelines and will assess applications on a case-by-case basis; you may get cover at standard rates, be excluded for cancer, have a loading attached to your premium or potentially have cover declined.
  • Can you access your super if you have cancer?

    You may typically be able to access your super prior to retirement, but this will depend on your super fund and your particular circumstances. Accessing your super will generally have to be on compassionate grounds and in many cases require you to be terminally ill or have a life expectancy of fewer than two years. The funds can generally be accessed to pay for things such as medical bills, palliative care and also to help with funeral costs for cancer patients.
  • Can breast cancer survivors get life insurance?

    Breast cancer survivors can potentially obtain life insurance, but it depends on many factors like the stage of cancer, treatment as well as the date of diagnosis, and time in remission. You might want to request a pre-assessment to check your eligibility for life insurance.
  • Does life insurance payout for skin cancer?

    Death due to cancer is seen as a natural cause. Thus life insurance will generally pay you out as per the terms and conditions of your policy as long as you have acted in accordance with your duty of disclosure and provided the insurer with your medical history during your application.

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