While the word cancer mostly causes distress to the average life insurance agent, many independent agents are well educated and connected to help survivors of breast cancer and many other types of cancer find affordable life insurance.

The key for you as a consumer and for the agent you choose, is knowledge of the specifics of the cancer. Through all the trauma of diagnosis and treatment, many types the small details are not remembered. It is these details that can help you to once again beat the odds and end up with good insurance rates.

With breast cancer the most important underwriting information, which also is the information needed to get initial insurance quotes that you can count on, is the stage and grade of the cancer, the treatment specifics and a post treatment pathology report. Armed with this information a good independent life insurance agent has the best possible chance of obtaining aggressive (low) quotes and ultimately an approved policy that is the same as the quotes.

Staging of breast cancer has been made rather intimidating by all the variations. This is how the American Cancer Society explains breast cancer staging.

“The T category describes the original (primary) tumor. The tumor size is usually measured in centimeters (2 and 1/2 centimeters is about 1 inch) or millimeters (10 millimeters = 1 centimeter.)

  • TX means the tumor can’t be measured or evaluated.
  • T0 means there is no evidence of primary tumor (the primary tumor cannot be found).
  • Tis means the cancer is in situ (the tumor has not started growing into the structures around it).
  • The numbers T1-T4 describe the tumor size and/or level of invasion into nearby structures. The higher the T number, the larger the tumor and/or the further it has grown into nearby structures.

The N category describes whether or not the cancer has reached nearby lymph nodes.

  • NX means the nearby lymph nodes can’t be measured or evaluated.
  • N0 means nearby lymph nodes do not contain cancer.
  • The numbers N1-N3 describe the size, location, and/or the number of lymph nodes involved. The higher the N number, the more lymph nodes are involved.

The M category tells whether there are distant metastases (spread of cancer to other parts of body).

  • MX means metastasis can’t be measured or evaluated.
  • M0 means that no distant metastases were found.
  • M1 means that distant metastases were found (the cancer had spread to distant organs or tissues.)”

The good news is that for life insurance purposes you really won’t have to understand or memorize all of this information. It is all contained on the post treatment pathology report. Supply a copy of the report to your agent.

The grading of the cancer is a bit less onerous, but just as important. Again, the American Cancer Society provides a synopsis of the different grades.

“The American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) recommends the following cancer grading classifications:

  • GX: Grade cannot be determined
  • G1: Well-differentiated (the cancer cells look a lot like normal cells)
  • G2: Moderately well-differentiated (cancer cells look somewhat like normal cells)
  • G3: Poorly differentiated (cancer cells don’t look much like normal cells)
  • G4: Undifferentiated (the cancer cells don’t look anything like normal cells)

The lower the cancer grade the better the prognosis. G1 cancers are linked to the best outcomes. G4 is associated with the worst outcomes and the others fall in between.”

Bottom line. Get a copy of your pathology report and know that as a breast cancer survivor you can also join the ranks of life insurance underwriting survivors.

This post is somewhat dated. Life insurance underwriting is changing and evolving continually. For more updated information check out some of the key word links. If you have a specific question or topic you need information for do a search. If you don’t find the answers you need contact me and we’ll make sure you get the information that is important to you.

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