In reviewing old posts it became apparent that, as a stand alone issue, I haven’t really addressed breast cancer life insurance underwriting in some time. I was all over the issue a few years ago when my mother was going through treatment, but let it drop off when her treatment was successful.

For those that followed that series of posts that lasted about a year, even though my mom was 85 at the time and was really in no need of life insurance, the detection, pathology, and treatment gave me an opportunity to address what a similar case in a younger woman would mean from a life insurance standpoint.

As with all cancer life insurance looks at factors that speak to mortality and chance of recurrence. The analysis of these factors leads to the staging and grading of the cancer. The best news of all is DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ, essentially a stage 0, grade 1 cancer. With DCIS all of the cancer is encapsulated within a milk duct and it is slow growing and has not breached the encapsulation at all. Life insurance prospects for DCIS would be for standard or better rates within a year or sooner after the surgical removal of the cancer.

In the case of a cancer like my mother experienced, it was a stage III, grade 2 cancer. It was not encapsulated, but at 3.2 cm was a fairly small tumor. There was minor spreading of the cancer to lymph nodes in the armpit next to the cancer, but only 2 of 16 lymph nodes biopsied were positive. Radiation therapy proved very effective as treatment and she is now at 2 years with no recurrence. This stage and grade of cancer would likely be insurable a year after treatment with a rated policy and possibly as good as standard five years out from successful treatment.

More complicated breast cancer can be declined for several years, 5 to even 10 post treatment. In one case I’ve been working on for several years there was a recurrence two years after the initial treatment. Truly there is doubt as to whether it was a recurrence or something that was simply missed in the initial treatment, but from an underwriting standpoint it is treated the same. Without the recurrence we would have had life insurance approved five years after treatment. Now we just keep going back every year. We’re now 6 years out from the first treatment and 4 years out from the recurrence. Maybe we can win an underwriter’s heart this year.

Bottom line. Because most breast cancer does not fall into the last category, most women can expect to be able to obtain affordable life insurance within 1-3 years post treatment. Earlier detection and improved treatment has made the breast cancer survival rate soar and the life insurance treatment improve dramatically. Take advantage of it.