Assuming survival, which is a pretty good bet with prostate cancer, a life insurance underwriter uses a set of criteria to evaluate the mortality risk of any given cancer survivor. It is this assessed risk that is translated into a rate per thousand dollars worth of insurance that a person must pay to be covered.

Prostate cancer is the second most prevalent cancer in men with nearly 250,000 men being diagnosed each year. The good news is that only about 1 in 37 men actually die from the cancer. Since most prostate cancer is confined to the prostate gland, and the most common treatment is removal of the gland, the survival rate is very high.

Life insurance underwriters look at prostate cancer from a couple of perspectives, and each of those is given a different spin depending on treatment options chosen. Optimally, a man should be able to get standard or better rates in most cases a year after successful treatment.

Underwriters first look at the PSA (prostate specific antigen) at the time of diagnosis. It varies from company to company, but for the best underwriting the PSA at the time of diagnosis should be 10 or under. Under 4 is considered normal. A PSA higher than 10 usually indicates either a faster growing cancer or someone who has not actively monitored their PSA.

The other factor that is critical is the grade of the cancer as indicated by the Gleason score. For the best consideration the pathology report should indicate a grade of no more than 6. I’ve compared the Gleason grade to the Richter scale in the past. A Gleason grade of 6 is very insurable in most cases, a 7 only at very high rates and an 8 or above usually not at all.

So, assuming a diagnosis level PSA of less than 10 and a Gleason 6, the last factor underwriters look at is the post treatment PSA. With a radical prostatectomy, the surgical removal of the prostate, a PSA of 0 is the expected result. If after one year the PSA is still at 0, standard or better rates should be available. The other primary treatment is radioactive seed implant. Rather than removing the prostate, one or more radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate effectively killing the cancer cells. With this treatment, since the prostate is still there, a PSA that has been at .5 or lower for at least a year is the underwriting goal.

Bottom line. Prostate cancer is highly survivable and is also very insurable in most cases. If you have had prostate cancer and are looking for life insurance, seek out a knowledgeable independent agent and come armed with the knowledge of the different factors that will be scrutinized.

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