Not a week goes that I am not called by someone with a history of cancer. It can be as common and treatable as prostate cancer or breast cancer, or as unpredictable as multiple myeloma. They would like to have life insurance, just like anyone, but insurance quotes take more information and leg work than if your health issue was high cholesterol.

Unless a client has saved all of the reports and paperwork, it often means going back to doctors and asking for the information. But let me be real clear about this, there is no way that I, or any other agent or agency out there, can accurately quote life insurance with a history of cancer without the pathology. The only exception to that hard and fast rule would be a history of basal cell carcinoma, the most common and least deadly of all cancers.

So, when someone says they had breast cancer or prostate cancer, the next question coming from me is, “do you remember the stage and grade of the cancer?” Most of the time the answer is no. They might remember that it was an early stage or a low grade but those terms are about as generic and useless as they sound. Those are the things oncologists say because frankly they don’t want the patient burdened with details that they won’t understand.

Personally I think having that information allows a person to truly educate themselves on what they are facing and what their options are. Knowing the actual pathology opens the door to enlisting 2nd opinions. With all of the information available on the internet it also gives you the information needed to know if you would have other treatment options available.

From a life insurance underwriting standpoint, no matter what type of cancer you had, the earlier the stage and the lower the grade the better, but in order to shop it those have to be actual values and not just lower and better. An example might, simply stated, be a stage 1, grade 1 cancer. With breast cancer a stage 1 tumor measures less than 2cm/1in. Stage 0 would be an insitu, or fully encapsulated tumor. The lymph nodes in the armpit are not affected and there are no signs that the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. A grade 1 breast cancer means that the cancer cells look very like the normal cells of the breast. They are usually slow growing and are less likely to spread.

Pathology is the key to the rating of the policy. It means, in most cases that clients will need to make a call or go by the oncologist’s office to get a copy of the pathology report. It’s not a big deal and shouldn’t require an appointment or cost anything. If you have paperwork from your cancer treatment stored, check and see if the pathology report is mixed in with that.

Find an independent agent, preferably one knowledgeable enough to know that you needed that report, and review the entire history from diagnosis through treatment to recovery and cure. Not all cancers are created equal, so stay open to what you will hear from the agent. It might be a good quote and it might be information on how long you will have to wait before you can get offers on life insurance.

Bottom line. Many types of cancer are insurable at very affordable rates within a short period after the end of treatment, so do the home work and Google your type of cancer and life insurance. Try to pick through and find truly independent agents who stand out as having a good understanding of how to get you from point A to approval.