Getting Life Insurance After Cancer

You may be able to get coverage depending on your condition.

I had stage 2 breast cancer and underwent an operation, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. My treatment ended in 2007 and I haven’t had evidence of cancer since. I was turned down for life insurance a few months ago. Is there a company that will cover me?

There may be. It’s a lot easier for people who have had certain types of cancer to get life insurance now, both because of better treatment success rates and because a few insurers are looking a lot more carefully at the severity of the cancer and the kind of treatment received. For example, Hartford Life offers life insurance at standard rates to some people who have had breast or prostate cancer right after they finish their treatment. “We did some research into the National Cancer Institute database and found that there was a group of people with breast cancer who had mortality rates within that of the general population,” says Ann Hoven, M.D., chief medical director for Hartford Life.

But you need to meet specific requirements to qualify for coverage that early. To get Hartford’s standard rates, for example, a breast-cancer survivor must be 40 or older, have had a small, well-differentiated, localized stage 1 breast cancer, and have a strong prognosis for survival. Because yours was stage 2 breast cancer, Hoven believes you might qualify for a policy with Hartford in as little as three years after your last treatment, depending on the severity of the cancer. The policy would probably cost more than the standard rate, but sometimes the company drops the surcharge after three to five years.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

The underwriting rules vary a lot by insurer, so it’s a good idea to work with an agent who deals with many companies. A good agent will get the basic information from you, then ask the insurer whether it’s worthwhile to apply. Keep in mind that being rejected by one insurer does not make it more difficult to qualify for coverage with another.

Got a question? E-mail me at

Kimberly Lankford
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

As the "Ask Kim" columnist for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Lankford receives hundreds of personal finance questions from readers every month. She is the author of Rescue Your Financial Life (McGraw-Hill, 2003), The Insurance Maze: How You Can Save Money on Insurance -- and Still Get the Coverage You Need (Kaplan, 2006), Kiplinger's Ask Kim for Money Smart Solutions (Kaplan, 2007) and The Kiplinger/BBB Personal Finance Guide for Military Families. She is frequently featured as a financial expert on television and radio, including NBC's Today Show, CNN, CNBC and National Public Radio.