Critical illness insurance pays out a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses or conditions listed in your policy while you're insured. When you apply for a policy, insurers will weigh up how likely it is that this will happen based on your profile – so they can decide how much of a risk you are to them.

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with cancer, this is something insurers will definitely consider carefully during the ‘underwriting’ process that all critical illness insurance applications go through. Some applications can be accepted automatically, after answering a set of questions about your health and lifestyle, but if you declare that you’ve had cancer, it’s likely that yours would go through manual underwriting, and you'd be required to provide extra information around your cancer diagnosis via a GP’s medical report.

Depending on a number of factors about the cancer diagnosis you disclose, you might find it more difficult or more expensive to get critical illness insurance. In many cases, insurers will choose to postpone the decision until a certain amount of time has passed – e.g. 5-10 years after treatment is completed.

Can I get critical illness cover after cancer?

You might be able to buy critical illness insurance, but it depends on the nature of your diagnosis and how long ago it was. When you apply for critical illness cover, you always have to answer questions about your health and lifestyle, which includes questions around your:

  • Personal health history
  • Family health history
  • Height and weight (BMI)
  • Smoking status
Anorak tip: Being a cancer survivor could affect whether or not you’re eligible for critical illness cover with some insurers. Getting help from an adviser can really help in this scenario, as they’ll quickly be able to filter out the insurers most likely to accept your application, and who’ll offer the best terms for you and your circumstances.

What will insurers need to know about my cancer diagnosis?

If you’ve had cancer before, it’s likely you’ll be required to provide the following information during the underwriting process for critical illness insurance:

  • The location and type of cancer you were diagnosed with
  • The staging and grading of your cancer diagnosis
  • How long ago you completed treatment and went into remission
  • Whether the cancer spread to any other part of your body

Depending on the type of cancer you were diagnosed with, insurers might ask you for extra information – e.g. if you had breast cancer, they’ll ask about the tumour size, tumour grade, and whether any maintenance treatment was prescribed.

How will my cancer diagnosis affect my critical illness cover application?

Typically, there are a few possible outcomes when you apply for critical illness insurance but disclose a previous diagnosis like cancer. These include:

  1. Your application being accepted as normal, with standard pricing rates (i.e. the same as they’d be for someone who hasn’t had cancer)
  2. Your application being accepted but with a ‘loading’ on the price (i.e. your rates will be between 50% and 150% higher than they would be for someone who hasn’t had cancer)
  3. Your application being accepted but with an exclusion in the policy conditions (i.e. the type of cancer you had being excluded)
  4. Your application decision being postponed (this happens if the insurer thinks your diagnosis poses too much of a risk right now, but has the potential to improve in the future)
  5. Your application being declined (this happens if the insurer thinks your previous diagnosis means you’ll always be too high risk to insure)

What about critical illness cover combined with life insurance?

As a cancer survivor, it'll be a similar story when applying for critical illness on its own or with life insurance. Everyone who applies for either of these kinds of cover has to disclose their medical history, as the insurer will need to weigh up the risk of you either dying or getting critically ill while you're insured. Read more in our guide to life insurance if you've had cancer.

And what about income protection?

Since it's another insurance policy designed to protect you in case of illness, your medical history will be factored in when buying income protection too. If you've previously had cancer, the potential outcomes are similar: depending on how severe or how recent the diagnosis was, your condition might be excluded, it might be more expensive, or the insurer might decline or postpone the application.

Why it’s important to disclose your cancer diagnosis

When applying for critical illness insurance, it’s extremely important to answer all the health questions honestly. If you don’t disclose that you’ve had cancer, even if you’ve been in remission for a long time, you risk invalidating your policy and it not paying out in the future, when you need it to.

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  • You can apply for critical illness cover even if you’ve previously been diagnosed with cancer
  • If you’ve had cancer before, you must disclose it during the application process, otherwise you risk invalidating your policy in the future
  • If you disclose a previous cancer diagnosis while applying for critical illness cover, extra medical information will be required from you during the underwriting process
  • Depending on several factors, including what type of cancer you had and how long ago, insurers may accept your application as normal; accept it but charge a higher premium; add an exclusion; or postpone or decline it