Updated: Apr 02, 2024

How to Get Life Insurance Policy After a Cancer Diagnosis

Find out what life insurance options are available to you if you've been diagnosed with cancer or have survived cancer and it is in remission.
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Being diagnosed with cancer is often one of the worst days of a person’s life. Medical professionals can often treat cancer, but the outcome of what will happen is uncertain.

When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they usually think about how to protect their family.

People want to make sure their families can financially survive if they don’t win their cancer battle.

You may be wondering if you can get life insurance after you’re diagnosed with cancer or after you’ve survived cancer treatment and entered remission.

Here’s what you should know about life insurance for cancer patients.

Where You Are With Your Cancer Diagnosis Matters

Life insurance companies need to understand the risk your policy would create to price it correctly.

When you’re initially diagnosed with cancer or undergoing treatment, your future is very uncertain.

Many variables affect your odds of survival.

Just remember:

Life insurance companies can’t predict your outcome accurately enough to be comfortable with issuing a policy in almost every case.

That changes if you achieve remission from cancer.

Here’s how these different scenarios impact your ability to get life insurance.

Just Diagnosed With or Being Treated for Cancer

People just recently diagnosed with or undergoing cancer treatment face a steep uphill battle.

Cancer treatment options are better than ever before, but much uncertainty still exists.

Term and whole life insurance become option

Life insurance companies like predictability. Cancer is anything but predictable.

Unfortunately, this means you can virtually never get a standard term or whole life insurance policy while you’re fighting cancer.

The good news:

You may be able to get a term life insurance or whole life insurance policy down the road.

Guaranteed issue life insurance may work

There is one type of life insurance policy you may be able to purchase while fighting cancer.

Guaranteed issue life insurance policies, sometimes marketed as final expense or burial insurance policies, may be an option.

Guaranteed life insurance pros vs. cons

Pros Cons
  • Almost anyone can get it
  • No medical exam
  • No long health history questionnaires
  • The money can be used for expenses after you pass away
  • Very limited death benefit limits
  • Premiums are high for the amount of coverage offered
  • You must survive the waiting period for the death benefit to be paid
  • Your beneficiary may only get premiums refunded, plus interest, if you die during the waiting period

Almost anyone can buy these types of policies. This is because of the way they work.


The life insurance company won’t require a medical exam with this type of life insurance.

They may ask some questions, but you shouldn’t have to fill out a detailed medical history questionnaire.

This means a cancer diagnosis shouldn’t be a major issue with this type of insurance policy.

These policies are essentially whole life insurance policies.

Death benefits are less

They come with small death benefit payments, though. Policy amounts are normally limited to about $25,000.

In rare cases, you might find a policy with a slightly higher death benefit.

No matter the death benefit, the premiums will be much more expensive than a similar term life insurance policy.

Waiting period

Insurers can offer guaranteed issue policies because they require you to live through a waiting period. The policy will pay the death benefit after the waiting period is fulfilled.

The waiting period is generally two years. It may be shorter or longer in some policies.

If you die before the waiting period expires, your beneficiaries won’t receive the death benefit.

With a cancer diagnosis, your future may be uncertain. While you may live through the waiting period, it isn’t guaranteed.

Thankfully, your money doesn’t usually disappear if you die during the waiting period.

Instead, the insurer may pay back the premiums you paid. They may pay interest on the premiums, too.

Sadly, the return of premiums is rarely enough to cover the final expenses your family may have to pay.

Group life insurance could work

If you belong to an organization, such as your employer or a professional group, that offers group life insurance benefits, you may be able to get a policy.

These group policies don’t usually require any information as long as you keep your death benefit to a relatively small limit, such as two times your salary.

They’re typically very affordable, too.

The downside:

You must remain qualified for them until you die.

If you can’t work due to your cancer diagnosis and you’re terminated, your group life insurance benefit will be terminated, too.

Successfully Survived Cancer and Are in Remission

With the breakthroughs in cancer treatment, more people are surviving than ever before.

You’re said to be in remission once you complete your cancer treatment and the cancer is gone.

In some cases, the cancer never returns. You end up living a normal life.

In others, the cancer may come back.

Insurers know this. Based on the time you’ve been in remission, they may be willing to write a policy in some instances.

You may qualify for term or whole life insurance after time

If you’ve successfully achieved remission, you may eventually be able to get a term or whole life insurance policy.

The reality is:

Insurers look at statistics.

Achieving remission from your cancer provides insurers information.

Based on your type of cancer and many other factors, some insurers may insure you once you’ve met their criteria.

You generally have to wait about two to five years after achieving remission before you may qualify for a policy again. The period depends on the insurer and your specific situation.

Insurance companies will want answers to a long list of questions before they consider offering a policy, though.

Be prepared with the following information. If you have medical records that back up this information, that’s even better.

  • Cancer diagnosis date
  • Type of cancer
  • Stage of cancer
  • What treatment you received and when
  • Date of entering remission
  • Whether you’ve had any recurrences
  • Current medications
  • Any family history of cancer

When providing information, make sure you tell the insurance company everything you know.

Honesty is the best policy.

If a life insurance company finds out you withheld information or gave incorrect information, it may result in the company not paying out your death benefit when you die.

Type of cancer will matter

Life insurance companies are interested in long-term survival rates.

This may vary by the type of cancer you had. After all, different cancers have varying levels of severity and recurrence.

The price you’re offered for your insurance policy is impacted by the type of cancer you had.

Depending on your situation, it may also impact whether you’re approved or not.


Less risky cancer types include certain cervical, thyroid, non-melanoma skin, and testicular cancers.

Other forms of cancer may be viewed as riskier by insurers.

Some of the riskiest cancers include breast cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer.

Consider using a broker for the best options

Each insurer uses actuarial information to help price its policies. That information may vary by insurer and helps them determine what is considered risky to the insurance company.

For this reason, it’s essential to get quotes from several insurance companies.

One company may deny you. Another may offer you coverage at a higher rate. A third company could provide you with an affordable policy.

The easiest way to shop around is by working with an experienced life insurance broker.

In particular:

You would be best served to find a broker that has worked with cancer survivors in the past.

These brokers may know which companies typically offer the best rates. They may also know any restrictions the companies may have based on your type of cancer.

Other Ways to Help Your Family

Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer or you’re in remission, you can still help your family financially in ways other than life insurance.

First, make sure you have your estate planning taken care of.

In an ideal world, you’d work with an estate planning attorney to make sure all of your bases are covered. Laws can vary by state so having expert help is critical.

In general, make sure you have the major documents taken care of. These can include:

  • Will and/or trust
  • Durable power of attorney
  • Advance care directive or medical power of attorney
  • Letter of intent
  • Other documents depending on your specific situation

You can also save your family headache by getting your finances in order. Make sure you have a list of important policies and where they are.

Similarly, create a list of financial accounts and usernames. Make sure the right people know how to access passwords for those accounts, too.

These steps can help your family feel a little less overwhelmed and frustrated if you pass away unexpectedly.

Consult a Professional


Guaranteed issue life insurance is likely your only option for life insurance when you’re diagnosed with and battling cancer.

Once you achieve remission for two to five years, you may be able to buy other types of life insurance.

The best way to make sure you’ve explored all of your options is by working with an experienced life insurance broker. They can help you shop for life insurance with many companies.

Due to each company assessing risk differently, you may find much better coverage at a lower price with one insurer over another.

A broker considers several types of life insurance and should help you find the best deal for your situation.

And, as always, you might also work with a fiduciary advisor to review your entire financial situation.