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Life insurance with cancer

The impact of a cancer diagnosis on families can be devastating. With financial worries adding to the burden in such a difficult time, it’s understandable that many people want to know if life insurance covers cancer. Find the answers to your questions on life insurance and cancer in our guide.

The impact of a cancer diagnosis on families can be devastating. With financial worries adding to the burden in such a difficult time, it’s understandable that many people want to know if life insurance covers cancer. Find the answers to your questions on life insurance and cancer in our guide.

Written by
Tim Knighton
Life, health and income protection insurance expert
Last Updated
29 FEBRUARY 2024
6 min read
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Life insurance with cancer

According to the NHS, one in two people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. It’s a shocking statistic. But thanks to the tireless work of organisations like Cancer Research UK into the prevention and treatment of cancer, survival rates are far higher than they used to be.

Over the past 40 years, cancer survival rates in the UK have doubled. Today, two in four people will survive cancer. Cancer Research UK aims to increase this to three in four by 2034.

Ultimately, though, the impact of a cancer diagnosis can be devastating for families and, for many, worries about financial uncertainty only add to the burden. And while life insurance can provide financial protection in the most tragic of times, many will ask, does it cover cancer?

Our guide is here to answer your questions on life insurance with cancer.  

What is life insurance?

Life insurance can provide your family with a tax-free lump sum of money if you die while the policy is still running – this is called the policy ‘term’.

Your loved ones could use the pay-out to cover the mortgage, other bills and living costs when you’re gone.

Decreasing term policies, where the pay-out reduces over time, are often used to cover mortgages. Level term policies, where the pay-out remains the same throughout the life of the policy, are also available.

Find out about the different types of life insurance policies.  

Does life insurance cover cancer?

Yes, it should do. It’s rare for life insurance policies to exclude cancer-related claims. If you already have life insurance before a cancer diagnosis, then your insurance provider should honour a claim if death is subsequently caused by the cancer.

Many life insurance policies also cover terminal illness as standard, and this can include the last stages of terminal cancer.

Insurance providers typically define a terminal illness as:

  • An incurable disease where a person is not expected to live more than 12 months after their diagnosis.
  • The condition and life expectancy must be confirmed by a medical professional, such as your hospital consultant, and the insurance provider’s own medical officer.

In some cases, insurance providers may pay out terminal illness benefit before death to help you pay for things like medical bills, hospice care or adapting your home if necessary. This would be the only pay-out, though – once you receive it, your life insurance policy will end and your beneficiaries won’t receive another pay-out when you die.

If you live for longer than expected, you won’t need to pay back the money.

Just make sure you check the policy wording or talk to your insurance provider, so you understand exactly what you’re covered for.

Can you get life insurance with stage 4 cancer?

If you already have stage 4 cancer, also known as ‘secondary’ cancer, it may be more difficult to get a new life insurance policy, but it’s not impossible. You might have to find a specialist provider who offers life insurance with pre-existing conditions.

With your permission, the provider will ask for access to your medical details, and you may have to undergo a medical examination.

If you’re offered a policy, you should expect the premiums to be more expensive and there may be extra conditions attached.

Can over 50s get life insurance with cancer?

Yes. There are specific life insurance policies for the over 50s.

The benefit of over 50s life insurance is that acceptance is guaranteed, and you don’t have to provide any health information to get a policy. So having cancer won’t affect your application.

However, over 50s policies tend to be more expensive than standard life insurance. And while a pay-out is guaranteed, there’s usually a qualification or ‘waiting’ period before a claim can be made. So, for example, if the qualification period is 12 months, you won’t get a pay-out if you die within the first year of taking out your policy.

Does critical illness cover include cancer?

Critical illness cover is often bought as an add-on to standard life insurance. It offers a tax-free lump sum to help you cope financially if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness or injury listed in the policy.

The types of critical illness covered can vary among insurance providers, but most will include cover for non-terminal cancer. However, it’s important to read the policy wording as not every type of cancer diagnosis will be covered.

Even if your cancer diagnosis isn’t listed, you might still be able to claim if you’re unable to work because of the cancer. Look out for something called a ‘total and permanent disability’ clause in your policy. If you’re not sure, ask your insurance provider.

Do you need to tell your insurance provider about cancer?

Yes. Honesty is the best policy when it comes to any type of insurance. Whether you’ve had cancer in the past or you’ve been recently diagnosed, it’s important to let your insurance provider know.

It could affect your policy and the cost of your premiums may go up, but withholding vital information means your insurance provider could refuse to pay out a claim and might even cancel your policy altogether.

It’s not easy talking about such a personal and sensitive topic, so it helps to be prepared for the types of questions they’ll ask. Common questions may include:

  • The type of cancer you were diagnosed with
  • When you were diagnosed
  • Results of recent tests or scans
  • At what stage the cancer is
  • What treatment you’re currently receiving. 

The provider may also ask for permission to write to your GP or oncologist for further confirmation of your condition.

Can I get life insurance after cancer?

Getting life insurance as a cancer survivor can be more of a challenge, as it may be considered a pre-existing condition. You might have to be cancer-free for a certain length of time before you can get cover and you may be charged a higher premium.

Insurance providers will want as much information as possible about your past condition and you may be asked to have a medical examination.

In most cases, after a full recovery, the risk of the cancer returning diminishes over time. As the years pass, your insurance provider may consider you less of a risk and reduce the cost of your premiums to reflect this.

Does a family history of cancer affect a life insurance application?

Yes, it can do. If it’s a certain type of cancer, like bowel, breast or ovarian that can run families, there’s a higher probability that you’ll develop the condition too.

Having a family history of cancer shouldn’t stop you from getting life insurance. But you may be considered a higher risk, so your premiums might be more expensive.

Resources for those affected by cancer

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming for you and the people you love. The following organisations can offer support, guidance and information on all aspects of cancer, including life insurance and cancer:

Compare life insurance

Whether you’re looking for life insurance as a cancer patient or life insurance after cancer, comparing quotes can help you work out which type of cover is right for your needs.

If you want to add critical illness cover, simply select the critical illness option during your quote and on our results page.

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Frequently asked questions

What are the most common types of cancer?

The four most common types of cancer in the UK are:

  • Breast cancer
  • Bowel cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer. 

There are more than 200 types of cancer and, globally, there are more than 18 million new cases of cancer each year. That’s why life insurance and critical illness insurance can be so important to those affected by cancer.

Are there any cancers not covered by life insurance?

It can vary among insurance providers. Some policies may exclude cancers resulting from sexually transmitted diseases, or caused by the use of alcohol, drugs or smoking.

Does death in service benefit cover cancer?

Yes, death in service benefit will cover cancer. If you have death in service benefit through your employer and you die for any reason while in their employment, your beneficiaries should receive a tax-free lump sum.

Where can I find expert advice on getting life insurance with cancer?

Life insurance can be complicated at the best of times. But with the added worry of cancer, it can be difficult to know what type of financial protection is best for you.

If you need further help, give our expert partners at LifeSearch a call on Freephone 0800 316 7253. Their friendly advisors can take you through your options based on your medical history and personal circumstances.

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