How to Get Term Life Insurance With Lung Cancer

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Tim is a licensed life insurance agent with 23 years of experience helping people protect their families and businesses with term life insurance. He writes and creates stuff for QuickQuote and other insurance and financial websites. You can find him on Twitter.

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UPDATED: Aug 6, 2020

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Lung cancer is cancer that starts in the lungs. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. The more cigarettes you smoke per day and the earlier you started smoking, the greater your risk for lung cancer. However, lung cancer has occurred in people who have never smoked. Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer for both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t get approved for the best rating class with the lowest premium possible. How? You first need to understand how life insurance companies handle applicants with heart murmurs. What do they look for? How can you prepare? What is the likely outcome?

Read on to find the answers and get started with your term life insurance application.

Lung Cancer Statistics

As of 2016, the following numbers show the significance of lung cancer:

  • An estimated 224,390 people in the United States were diagnosed with lung cancer.
  • Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, accounting for 1.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths in 2012.
  • The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 17.7%.

Treatments and Prevention

It has been estimated that as many as 65 – 85% of cancers can be prevented through diet and lifestyle changes. Here are some ways you can decrease your risk factors and improve your chance of kidney cancer prevention:

  • Choose a diet rich in a variety of plant-based foods
  • Maintain a healthy weight and be physically active
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Select foods low in fat and salt
  • Prepare and store foods safely
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco in any form

If lung cancer is found, necessary treatment steps must be taken immediately. Treatment varies by the individual circumstances. Treatment depends on tumor size and location, stage and grade of the disease and other factors. In some cases, patients may have to undergo surgery to remove the cancer. Use of radiation, chemotherapy or some combination of the two is highly likely.

Doctors may use several tests to accurately stage a lung cancer, including laboratory (blood chemistry) tests, X-rays, CT scans, bone scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. Abnormal blood chemistry tests may signal the presence of metastases in bone or the liver, and radiological procedures can document the size of cancer as well as its spread.

NSCLC are assigned a stage from I to IV in order of severity:

  • In stage I, the cancer is confined to the lung.
  • In stages II and III, the cancer is confined to the chest (with larger and more invasive tumors classified as stage III).
  • Stage IV cancer has spread from the chest to other parts of the body.

SCLC are staged using a two-tiered system:

  • Limited-stage (LS) SCLC refers to cancer that is confined to its area of origin in the chest.
  • In extensive-stage (ES) SCLC, cancer has spread beyond the chest to other parts of the body.

What Life Insurance Companies Look For

Life insurance companies want to see that people with a history of lung cancer have (1) received full treatment, and (2) have completed regular follow-up visits per doctor’s orders. Lifelong follow-up is crucial, as recurrences can occur as many as 30 years after the initial diagnosis.

The life insurance company you apply with will be looking specifically at:

  • Your age at diagnosis
  • The amount of time since diagnosis
  • The stage and grade of cancer
  • The tumor size
  • Whether there was any recurrence of cancer following recovery
  • Length of time since treatment and recovery
  • The treatment success and adherence to treatment recommendations
  • Follow up visits as recommended by doctor
  • Whether you are a tobacco/drug/alcohol user
  • Any other major health problems

How to Prepare for Your Term Life Insurance Application

There are important measures you can take to prepare yourself before applying for term life insurance. Doing so will help your chances of getting approved for the best rating class possible. Use the following tips to put yourself in the best position to win:

  • Have all doctors’ name/address/phone available.
  • Make sure your doctor(s) has copies of all records regarding the cancer treatment, pathology reports, and follow-up reports.
  • Have a list of all medications and their dosages available.
  • Do not skip any follow-up visits with your doctor. 

What Our Experience Has Shown

We’ve helped thousands of people apply for term life insurance, and many of those people had lung cancer. Here are a few things we’ve learned:

  • Life insurance companies usually postpone applicants who have not followed doctor’s orders regarding follow-up visits, or those that have outstanding follow-up visits.
  • Generally speaking, life insurance companies do not make policy offers while the applicant is currently in treatment.
  • You may be declined if you apply too soon after finishing treatment, typically within the first year.
  • Approval is more likely the longer it has been since treatment, with no recurrence.
  • Rating classes [life insurance terminology] better than Standard are rare. Most applicants with a history of lung cancer receive a Sub-standard rating class or a policy with an extra premium of some degree.
  • The best chances for approval with a good rating class and no extra premium are:
  • Over age 40 at diagnosis
  • Early stage, small tumors

The life insurance company will usually decline applicants if the cancer metastasized.

Real Examples from Real Customers

Good Outcome

Jackson applied for term life insurance when he was 56 years old.

  • Diagnosed at age 50
  • Stage 0 lung cancer
  • Treatment involved surgery, radiation and chemotherapy
  • Positive results from follow-up appointments with doctor
  • No other medical conditions
  • Outcome:  Approved at a Standard rating class
  • Premium:   $509 annually

Not So Good Outcome

Joan applied for term life insurance when she was 45 years old.

  • Diagnosed at age 42
  • Stage 2 lung cancer
  • Treatment involved surgery, radiation and chemotherapy
  • Positive results from follow-up appointments with doctor
  • No other medical conditions
  • Outcome:  Postponed for ten years from treatment ending (age 50)

Poor Outcome

Roger applied for term life insurance when he was 38 years old.

  • Diagnosed at age 34
  • Stage 2 lung cancer
  • Treatment involved surgery, radiation and chemotherapy
  • Has not seen a doctor in over two years
  • No other medical conditions
  • Tobacco User
  • Outcome:  Declined

You can see Jackson had the best outcome, due to low-stage cancer that was caught early and treated. Being over age forty and having regular follow-up appointments with his doctor also helped. Joan’s cancer was more extensive, and although she had no other medical conditions and good follow up, her application was postponed until more time has passed since treatment. Finally, Roger was the youngest of the group when he was diagnosed. However, his lack of routine follow-up, and tobacco use resulted in his application being declined.

What This All Means for You

The good news about applying for term life insurance when you have a history of lung cancer is — yes, you can qualify for coverage! Your outcome and resulting premium cost will depend greatly on a number of factors, including your age, stage of cancer, treatment, follow-up, medical history and more.

While you can control the outcome to some extent through good follow up and lifestyle habits, other uncontrollable factors will come into play when the life insurance company reviews your application.

Remember, you could be asked to wait and apply later (postponed), or your policy may cost more due to an extra premium being applied (flat extra for a specific number of years, usually 1-10). But these are temporary measures, and eventually, you will get the coverage you seek and a more affordable premium cost!

As always, please discuss your situation with your life insurance agent or broker, and provide as much information as you can. They will help direct you to the best life insurance company based on your individual circumstances. And if you are not pleased with the offer you receive, you can always apply with another company.

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