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Life Insurance Challenges and Solutions for Those with Cancer

Can You Get Life Insurance if You Have Cancer?

Yes, you can get life insurance if you have cancer, although your options will be more limited. You and your family can still benefit from financial protection in the event of your death.

A cancer diagnosis can bring a lot of anxiety, stress, and worry. Much of that worry often comes from the question of whether your family will be able to cover medical bills, lost income, and other financial stresses that come from losing a loved one. Thankfully, life insurance is still a viable option — although your premiums will likely be higher, and you will have fewer policy options.

Life Insurance: Bringing Comfort to a Difficult Time 

Cancer is estimated to cause 19.3 million new cases and 10 million deaths yearly. In addition to fear, anxiety, and depression, there is an immense emotional strain on the patient and the family. In terms of physical symptoms, cancer causes pain, fatigue, and debilitating treatment. Financially, it can wreak irreparable havoc on your wallet.

One small way to help with the financial aspect is life insurance. Even though cancer patients may have limited options, life insurance coverage is still available. Policies offered by some insurers may have higher premiums, waiting periods, or limited coverage, but they can provide essential support during treatment. Life insurance can reassure you that your family will not be financially burdened after you pass.

How Does Life Insurance Work for Cancer Patients?

Life insurance is a policy where you pay a premium in exchange for a lump sum to be paid to a beneficiary upon your death. If you have cancer, getting life insurance can be more complex because the chance the insurance company will have to pay out is higher — which results in insurers being more reluctant to offer you a policy.

If you do get a life insurance policy after you are diagnosed, you can expect to pay higher premiums because your health risk is higher than a healthy person. While paying more for a policy is unfortunate, it can still give you some financial peace of mind in the midst of a terrible time. 


To be eligible for life insurance, you must apply and go through medical underwriting. There will be a medical history questionnaire and possibly an exam and blood work. This whole underwriting process will be more invasive for people diagnosed with cancer. Life insurance eligibility factors associated with cancer include:

  • Stage and type of cancer: The higher the stage and shorter the prognosis, the harder it may be for you to obtain life insurance.
  • Time since diagnosis and treatment: If you finished treatment some time ago, the insurer may be more willing to offer you a policy since it seems the treatment helped.
  • Stage of treatment: An insurer will be more hesitant if you have just started treatment since it is too early to tell if it will be helpful. 

It is crucial that you are honest about your medical history and status when filling out the underwriting questionnaires and insurance application. If you lie and are caught, you can face legal consequences. 

What Types of Life Insurance Policies Are Available for Cancer Patients? 

There are a few types of life insurance policies that you can get when you are diagnosed with cancer, most prominently no medical exam life insurance, group life insurance, and burial life insurance.

No Medical Exam Life Insurance

An individual can secure coverage without undergoing a medical examination through no medical exam life insurance. There are two types of life insurance: simplified life insurance and guaranteed life insurance.

Simplified life insurance policies will still have questions related to your medical history, while guaranteed does not, so the latter may be a better option for those with cancer. Life insurance premiums will be higher for this type of policy since it is a higher risk for the insurer. 

Group Life Insurance 

Group life insurance is typically offered by an employer or association to a group of people. A medical exam is usually not required for eligibility. Due to the spread of risk, costs are generally lower. If you have a cancer diagnosis, you may find it difficult to obtain an individual policy, so this provides an alternative to traditional insurance.

Burial Life Insurance 

Also known as final expense insurance, burial life is a form of life insurance that covers the costs of burial and funerals. Medical exams and questionnaires are not usually needed for eligibility. Due to the smaller coverage amount (burial expenses only), premiums are usually lower.

It will not give your family as much financial comfort, but it is something so they do not have to pay for funeral expenses. At the very least, it gives your family some time to put the pieces back together.

Term and Whole Life Insurance 

Term and whole life insurance are the most common types of life insurance. However, they are usually not an option for cancer patients. A term life insurance policy offers coverage for a specific period of time, while a whole life insurance policy offers lifelong protection. Due to the increased risk associated with a cancer diagnosis, you would have difficulty qualifying. Many insurers will not offer these policies at all to someone with cancer, or if they do, the premiums will be unaffordable. 

How to Get Life Insurance 

Applying for life insurance with an active cancer diagnosis significantly differs from applying while in remission. Remission often leads to better eligibility, fewer restrictions, and more favorable terms than an active diagnosis. The type and stage of cancer, time since treatment, and overall health may be considered by insurers before offering coverage.

You can apply for life insurance by following these steps:

  1. Determine your needs. First, you have to decide how much life insurance you want to apply for. That will help you know which policy to go for.
  2. Obtain quotes. Contact the insurers you want quotes from and request them. You may want to consider an independent agent that works with multiple companies for ease. Review the quotes carefully.
  3. Fill out the application and go through the medical exam. Once you decide on a quote, complete the application, submit any health questionnaires, and undergo a medical exam if needed.
  4. Go through underwriting. The underwriter will review your file, determine if coverage is available, and let you know the exact coverage amount and premium.
  5. Activate the policy. Pay the premium to activate the policy.

Life Insurance Riders for People With Cancer 

There are riders you can add to your life insurance policy that can help provide coverage, most notably the terminal illness rider. While helpful, this rider cannot be added to your policy after a cancer diagnosis. You would have needed to add it beforehand. If you have a family history of cancer or want to ensure coverage in case, adding this rider can be beneficial.

Terminal illness riders allow individuals to access a portion of their life insurance benefits. This rider can offer financial relief in the final stages of cancer. In most cases, adding this rider involves simply asking the insurer to add it to your policy and does not require additional fees.

Cancer patients can also benefit from the following options:

  • Accelerated death benefits: This benefit is offered by many policies and allows the insured to access their death benefits while they are still living. This can be a huge help in covering medical bills while undergoing cancer.
  • Critical illness rider: This rider also allows you to access your benefit while living in order to cover medical expenses for certain specified illnesses.

Can You Use Life Insurance to Pay for Cancer Treatment? 

With some life insurance policies, a portion of the death benefit can be accessed while alive if the policyholder suffers from a terminal illness such as cancer. Medical expenses, including cancer treatment costs, can be covered by this benefit. Review your policy carefully because some policies will have this endorsement while others will not.

Putting It All Together 

Being diagnosed with cancer is a scary time, but you can rest assured that life insurance is something you can still obtain, even if it may be slightly more complex and higher in premiums.

Group insurance, burial insurance, and simplified and guaranteed policies provide alternatives. Cancer patients can also benefit from certain endorsements that allow them to access a portion of their benefits to cover their medical expenses.

Seeking life insurance coverage after a cancer diagnosis can be difficult, so seek professional advice regarding securing the right insurance coverage. There are insurance agents available to help you.

Frequently Asked Questions

If your type of cancer has a longer prognosis, the premiums will be cheaper. A shorter prognosis means a higher risk for the insurer, so they will try to recoup their money upfront.

Nothing will happen to your insurance policy if it is already active. However, you should check your policy for the terminal illness rider and the accelerated benefit rider to ease some of the financial burden of cancer. 

While an insurer may consider this when underwriting and providing a quote, the impact would be small. 

Terminal cancer patients can seek similar life insurance options, such as group, burial, and no medical exam life insurance.

Plan for your family’s future. Get a life insurance quote today.

Get a quote

Plan for your family’s future. Get a life insurance quote today.

Get a quote