Sometimes going through an unfortunate experience such as breast cancer makes us consider how invaluable life insurance is. If you did not previously have life insurance, surviving something like cancer may trigger you to start thinking about it.
You may be asking yourself, “can I get life insurance as a breast cancer survivor?” The short answer is yes, however, the stage, type of treatment, and how long has passed since your last treatment will be a few of the questions the underwriter will ask when considering your policy application. The earlier the stage when you were diagnosed, the better rates for which you can qualify.
The life insurance company recognizes that having low-grade cancer between 0-2 doesn’t affect your overall life expectancy (which is what the company is interested in, after all, since they only have to pay if you die).
In fact, according to cancer.org, the five-year survival rate for a woman with stage 0-1 is close to 100%, and for stage 2 the five-year survival rate is about 93%.
In this post, you will learn about the questions the underwriter will ask, your chances for approval, and the prices you can expect to pay for a traditional life insurance policy.
What Is Breast Cancer?
Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast grow out of control and form a tumor. The tumor can sometimes be seen on an x-ray or felt as a mass. The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can spread to the outer parts of the body.
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer affecting American women, after skin cancer. The average change for a woman in the US to develop breast cancer is 12% or 1 in 8. Many people are surprised to hear that less than one percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. Because it is so rare, this article focuses on how the insurance companies evaluate women with breast cancer. They do view men’s situations a bit differently and we’re happy to discuss it with you if that is your case (just give us a call).
What Are the Insurance Companies Looking for When Insuring Breast Cancer Survivors?
Life insurance underwriting is all about risk assessment. It’s the process in which the insurance company decides your health class rating, which will ultimately determine your rates. From a breast cancer standpoint, the less invasive the cancer prognosis was, along with the stage and how much time has passed since your last treatment will be the foundation of your consideration for coverage.
The insurance company will order an attending physician statement (APS), so they can confirm the stage, size, and treatment. I will review a few more questions the underwriter is interested in the most.
The Date of Diagnosis
The date of diagnosis, along with your age at the time of diagnosis will be the first questions you will need to answer. The reason is that the younger a woman is, the higher the likelihood of survival. Anytime you were diagnosed over the age of 40, and the longer time that has passed since you were first diagnosed, the better your rates will be.
Last Date of Treatment
The date of your last treatment is probably the most crucial element of this. Each stage in breast cancer has a survival rate based on the last time of treatment.
For instance, for stage 0, the five-year survival rate is 98%, and the ten-year rate is 95%. However, for stage IV, the five-year survival rate is 10%, and the ten-year is 2%. Obviously from the insurance company’s standpoint, the longer you survive, the better. It’s also better for you and your loved ones.
What Type of Breast Cancer Did You Have?
There are two categories of breast cancer: invasive and non-invasive. After a biopsy, the pathologist will look at the tissue and decide whether the tumor is non-invasive or invasive breast cancer. From the insurance company’s standpoint, you will have better success getting your life insurance approved with non-invasive cancer.
Non-Invasive Breast Cancer
Non-invasive breast cancer is also called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). In situ means “in place.” With this type of breast cancer, the abnormal cells have not spread to other parts of your body and are contained in the milk ducts of the breast.
Invasive Breast Cancer
With invasive breast cancer, the abnormal cells have spread from the original site into other parts of the tissue, or to other parts of the body. Below are types of invasive breast cancer:
- Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)
- Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC)
- Tubular carcinoma
- Mucinous (colloid) carcinoma
- Carcinomas with medullary features
- Invasive papillary carcinoma
What Stage Was the Cancer and What Was the Size of the Tumor?
Cancer’s stage and size will not only help the doctor decide on treatment but will also have implications regarding your life insurance application. The pathology report will include information that your doctor can use to calculate cancer’s stage.
The breast cancer staging system is called TNM:
- (T) The size of the tumor
- (N) Whether or not the cancer is in the lymph nodes
- (M) Has cancer spread to other parts of the body
Breast cancer has five stages:
- Stage 0
- Stage I
- Stage II
- Stage III
- Stage IV
How Was the Cancer Treated?
The reason the underwriter will ask this is that based on your treatment, he/she will get to know more about the severity of cancer. If you are still under treatment, you will not be able to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy, however, you can still consider a guaranteed issue policy. Here are a few examples of the most common treatments:
- Radiation therapy
- Hormonal therapy
- Removing the tumor only
Are You on Any Medications?
If you are still on any prescription medications related to breast cancer, it shows that you are not entirely done with your treatment.
Has There Been Any Evidence of Recurrence?
For breast cancer, the recurrence rates are in direct proportion to the original size and stage of cancer. Woman with a low-grade stage has a 10% risk of cancer spreading in the next 15 years, compared to a 40% risk of spreading for those high-grade cancers.
For this reason, the insurance company will be interested to know if there have been any recurrences of your breast cancer.
What Other Questions Will the Underwriter Ask?
Breast cancer isn’t the only thing the underwriter will want to investigate. Here are a few other questions you will need to answer.
- Current age
- State of residence
- Height and weight
- Income and liabilities
- High-risk hobbies (if any)
- Current and past health history
- Family history
- Foreign travel
- Smoking habits
- Alcohol habits
- Driving history
- Criminal history
- Prescription usage
What Rate Class Can I Qualify for If I Am a Breast Cancer Survivor?
When it comes to estimating survival rates with cancer, it gets very complicated. The stage, grade, age at diagnosis, and treatments are only a few of the factors that result in approving or denying your policy. This guide is for general use only and shouldn’t be used as a binding offer.
- Stage 0 – Low-grade and estrogen receptor (ER) positive. This means that estrogen, not progesterone is the cause of cancer. Stage 0 with at least two years since the end of treatment will get you a standard rate.
- Stage 1 – Low-grade, ER-positive, and diagnosis at age 40 years or under, tumor size 1.1-10mm. This low grade with two years since the end of treatment will get you a standard rate.
- Stage 2 – Tumor size 2.1- 5cm with no positive nodes. You can get table B after a 5-year waiting period. If, however, 1 to 3 nodes were positive, you will have to wait 10 years before applying.
- Stage 3 and 4 – You will need to wait 15 years before anyone will consider you for coverage.
Take away: You may also be faced with an extra flat premium based on different cancer sizes and if you were node-positive. Node-positive means that cancer had spread in the lymph nodes in the armpit area. This will dramatically increase your rates between $5-$10 per $1000 of coverage for 3- 6 years. You need to rely on your insurance agent to steer you in the right direction when applying for a policy. If the agent never asked you any of these questions, you may want to find a new one.
Life Insurance for Breast Cancer Survivors Sample Monthly Rates
40-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
50-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
60-Year-Old Female Nonsmoker on a 20-Year Term
Getting life insurance if you have had breast cancer is complicated. Your treatment, stage, and medication use, along with your overall health will all be evaluated by the insurance company.