- How to obtain life insurance if you have breast cancer
- February 10, 2014
1. MYTH: Using antiperspirants and shaving your underarms increases your risk of developing breast cancer.
FALSE. The American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute and U.S. Food and Drug Administration agree there is no good scientific evidence to support this claim. The ACS says an epidemiologic study of this issue published in 2002 found no link between breast cancer risk and antiperspirant or deodorant use.
2. MYTH: Wearing a bra for a whole day compresses the lymphatic system of the breast, resulting in accumulation of toxins that cause breast cancer.FALSE. The ACS says there are no scientifically valid studies that show wearing bras of any type causes breast cancer. The claim making its way through e-mails appears to be based on the writings of a husband and wife team of medical anthropologists, but their study was not conducted according to standard principles of epidemiological research.
3. MYTH: Paget’s disease, which looks like a rash around the nipple, is a rare form of breast cancer that can be misdiagnosed as a dermatological condition.TRUE. This e-mail myth is actually a very plausible description of a case of this rare disease, says the ACS’s medical editor, Ted Gansler.
Paget’s disease starts in the breast ducts and spreads to the skin of the nipple and then to the areola, the dark circle around the nipple. Paget’s disease accounts for only 1 percent of all cases of breast cancer. The skin of the nipple and areola often appears crusted, scaly, and red, with areas of bleeding or oozing. The woman may notice burning or itching. See a doctor if any change occurs.
4. MYTH: Power lines, microwave ovens and TV could cause breast cancer.FALSE. There have been several studies over the past 15 years evaluating children’s and adults’ residential exposure to electro-magnetic fields in relation to breast cancer, brain cancer and leukemia, most of which have been inconclusive, the National Cancer Institute says.
5. MYTH: You can only inherit breast cancer from your mother’s side of the family.
FALSE. Not true, says the NCI. Genes related to breast cancer can be inherited from your father’s side, too.
Breast cancer strikes fear in women’s hearts. It is the leading cause of cancer in women (with 207,090 women expected to be diagnosed with the disease this year alone) and is expected to claim the lives of more than 40,000 women in 2010, according to the American Cancer Society. Many of its victims are scarred by the trauma of going through treatments and possibly losing part of their womanhood.
But there is cause for hope. The likelihood of surviving the disease and subsequently getting life insurance has improved over the last several years.
As a result of earlier detection, improved treatment and decreased incidence, death rates from breast cancer have been steadily decreasing since 1999, according to the American Cancer Society.
Survivors can obtain life insurance after they’ve been successfully treated for the disease. How long after depends on a number of factors including the stage or severity of the cancer, whether it spread to other organs and if it is a repeat cancer, said principal and consulting underwriter with ARH Consulting in Eastland, Tex., Anna Hart.
Treatment and follow-up is key
Chief medical director of The Hartford’s Individual Life Division, Dr. Ann Hoven, says insurance companies don’t look at the type of treatment used to cure the cancer—mastectomy versus chemotherapy—but at its overall success.
“Those with small, early stage, good risk breast cancer can get life insurance as soon as they have completed treatment and had a follow-up visit. For a later stage breast cancer, the postpone period may be 2-5 years,” said Hoven. “For more advanced breast cancer and recurrent breast cancer, the postpone period may be 5-10 years.”
Life insurance companies base their charges on several rating categories, with preferred plus being the best and cheapest while substandard is the lowest and most expensive. Hart says most survivors would be offered standard rates. Some companies will offer preferred rates for Stage 1 cancer and after a minimum of ten years without re-occurrence. She says those with recurring cancer are generally uninsurable.
Those with cancer in both breasts have a higher risk and, therefore, a higher rating, than those with cancer in just one breast, Hoven adds. Hart says family history is considered as a screen for preferred exclusion, but not for possible denial.
Hart says both men and women breast cancer survivors receive the same rates. Survivors could be eligible for both term and whole life insurance.
If you’re still undergoing treatment, Hoven says The Hartford can often offer a joint life policy if your spouse/partner is in good health. If you’ve been denied life insurance in the past, Hart and Hoven recommend you try again, provided your treatments are completed and you’ve undergone the wait period. To improve chances of getting life insurance, Hoven urges women to receive annual mammograms and screenings, maintain a healthy diet, exercise routinely and take care of other health issues like high blood pressure.
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