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Understand how life insurance works

How to Buy Life Insurance After Being Diagnosed with Cancer

Life insurance with preexisting conditions

For anyone trying to obtain life insurance, the insurance company at some point will need to assess your health to determine the risk of insuring you. Having a preexisting condition such as cancer can make qualifying more difficult. A licensed insurance agent can provide details on how to buy life insurance after being diagnosed with cancer, but in short, you’ll need to provide additional information to the insurer. You should also be prepared to get quotes from several companies to determine your options, and possibly consider other options.

Information for life insurers about your cancer

The first step is to determine your needs. An online tool, such as our life insurance calculator, can help. When you start working with a licensed insurance agent to obtain coverage, at some point you’ll need to provide a detailed medical history, and in many cases you’ll need a medical exam. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, you’ll need to disclose the type of cancer along with:

  • The tumor grade. This assesses how abnormal the tumor cells and tissue look and indicates how aggressive the cancer is. Tumors are generally graded on a scale of 1 to 4.
  • The cancer stage. This refers to how much the tumor has grown and whether cancer cells have spread elsewhere in the body. Cancers are grouped into five categories.

The insurer likely will rely on a national database from the National Cancer Institute as well as the information you provided to assess whether to underwrite (i.e., assume the risk) a policy and, if so, what the premiums will be.

Some insurance companies require your cancer to be in remission before offering coverage. In general, the longer you’ve been in remission, the easier it is to qualify for a policy.

Policies for cancer

If you qualify for a life insurance policy, you’ll need to decide what kind meets your needs — term or whole life — and what riders you may want. If you don’t qualify for a life insurance policy, you might be able to consider other options, including final expense — or burial — insurance.

Learn more about what to look for in a life insurance policy.


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