Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by unregulated multiplication of cells. This uncontrolled growth of cancer cells consumes space and body function resources at the expense of the patient, which may result in organ dysfunction or even death. The behavior and characteristics of each form of cancer are different, as are the prognosis and chances of successful treatment.
A definitive diagnosis of cancer involves obtaining a piece of tissue from the suspected site — a procedure commonly known as a biopsy. A biopsy may be performed using a needle and either aspirating the tissue, obtaining a core sample of tissue, or surgically removing a piece of tissue. The tissue is then processed and evaluated by a pathologist and detailed in the pathology report. This pathology report contains information on size, depth, amount of infiltration into surrounding tissue, if there was any spread into the lymph nodes, and most importantly, the staging and grading.
Most cancers are graded as well-differentiated (or low-grade), moderately differentiated (or intermediate-grade) and poorly differentiated (or high-grade). Another grading system in use grades I to IV; grade I corresponds with low-grade and grade IV with high-grade. Still others have their own individualized grading system, such as Gleason’s grade for prostate cancer.
Cancer spreads by increasing in size, infiltrating surrounding tissues, spreading cells through the lymphatic channels to the lymph nodes, and spreading through the blood to distant organs such as lung, liver or brain. The extent of the spread of the cancer at the time of diagnosis is termed by the stage, which also affects the outcome of a cancer.
The primary questions to be asked of a proposed insured that presents with a history of cancer are:
- Location of the cancer and the exact name/type of cancer?
- What was the date of diagnosis? And what was the date of end of treatment?
- How was the cancer treated? Surgery?... Radiation?... Chemotherapy?
- Most importantly and critical to quoting — what was the stage and grade?
- Has there been any recurrence?
- Any other cancer history?
Underwriting offers for cancer are very dependent on the amount of time passed since treatment, the location and type of cancer, and most importantly, the stage and grade. Many low-grade cancers can be offered Standard rates within a few months of treatment, while higher staged or graded tumors may take several years of postponement, followed by a period of years with a flat extra rating, before being considered at Standard rates. Our general cancer questionnaire will help you gather the information needed to determine how a cancer case may potentially come out of underwriting.Download the Questionnaire