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Ask an Underwriter: Are Breast Cancer Survivors Able To Get Life Insurance?


With an estimated 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States and 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer to be diagnosed in 2016 alone, there is a very high probability you will be faced with protecting a breast cancer survivor in the future if you haven’t already.  


As a result of increased preventative screening – including regularly performed breast self-exams, routine mammograms, discovery of genetic predisposition testing and advancement in treatments – early detection is naturally higher. For that reason, many life insurance carriers have improved underwriting guidelines, leading to decreased postponement periods and more favorable ratings for clients with a history of breast cancer.


Underwriting Breast Cancer 

The key to successfully insuring your breast cancer survivor is understanding what information is important to enable your underwriting team to find the very best solution. 

  • Stage of the breast cancer
  • Date the cancer was diagnosed
  • Type(s) of treatment
  • Date of last treatment  


Additional questions that may help in your assessment: 

  • What was specific type of breast cancer? (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ/DCIS or Lobular Carcinoma In Situ/LCIS)
  • Any lymph node involvement?
  • Any metastasis (spreading of the cancer to other areas in the body)?   
  • Any relapses?
  • Any medications currently being taken? 
  • Family history of breast cancer? If so, any genetic testing? 


Additionally, one of the most important pieces of information will be whether or not the client is in full remission/cancer-free and when (month/year). The longer they have been cancer free, with regular follow-up and testing, the more favorable their offer may be.   


Postponement Period

For life insurance carriers to give consideration of someone who has a history of breast cancer, they must fully complete treatment (surgery, radiation, chemo) and often undergo a specific waiting period referred to as a postponement period (which varies based on stage of breast cancer). If they are past the initial waiting period, and they are taking hormonal therapy, such as Tamoxifen, Arimidex, etc., as part of their treatment plan, there would not be an additional postponement/waiting period for consideration. Everything will still depend on the stage of the breast cancer, type of treatment, and date of last treatment.   


Let Ash Brokerage assist you with your next breast cancer case – to simplify your fact-finding process, use our Breast Cancer Client Questionnaire and reach out to us for help. We leverage our experience, carrier relationships and resources to identify viable solutions based on your client’s individual circumstances and insurance needs.  



On March 11, 2016, Kristina Alderdice lost her 10-year battle with breast cancer and we lost a sister of our Ash Brokerage Family. Kristina’s legacy lives on in all of our cherished memories and through her mission at Hope in a Handbag . The organization supports mastectomy patients with a necessities bag, which gives supplies and information to aid in their recovery, and also provides a resource for surgeons and nurses to improve communication with patients about the challenges of major surgery. To date, Hope in a Handbag has distributed more than 2,000 bags to women in northeast Indiana.


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About the Author

Julie’s unwavering passion and dedication for risk advocacy promotes lasting partnerships while driving impactful results for all stakeholders, from our agents to our carriers. She leverages her 20 years of industry experience with her relational approach to ensure you experience the Ash difference.


UW underwriting breast cancer cancer

Ask an Underwriter: What’s the big deal with a little extra weight?


For every life insurance policy, underwriting begins with three basics: build, blood pressure and lab results. Positive findings can speed the process for you and your clients, and result in better rates and lower premiums … so if general health and wellness aren’t incentive enough, maybe the potential for less hassle and lower costs could entice them to get in shape. 


Why Wellness Matters

Insurance carriers acknowledge and reward healthy lifestyle choices. Many have adopted crediting methodologies which empower their underwriters to seek out opportunities to improve your client’s rate class based on things such as regular exercise, sustaining a healthy diet, being a lifetime nonsmoker or simply partaking in preventative medical visits, including appropriate screenings.  

Most of the impairments we see stem from a breakdown in basic health. In a nation where obesity is prevalent, it’s common to see many long-term complications of being overweight, such as diabetes, sleep apnea, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure and even depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control, even modest weight loss, such as 5-10 percent of total body weight, can produce healthy benefits such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar – which can in turn improve underwriting results. 

Don’t let your clients be discouraged by the numbers, however. If they are only a few pounds from the next best rate class, underwriters will take into consideration whether they are truly making strides toward living a healthier life.  


Not All Loss is Equal

We see many clients with a history of gastric bypass surgery for weight loss, which is usually rapid. However, underwriters must look at the time period post-surgery to confirm the weight loss is steady and maintained. We also look closely at lab results after these types of surgeries to make sure there isn’t any concern with malnutrition or malabsorption. 

A better approach is slow and steady weight loss that includes a healthy diet and exercise. When you lose weight this way, you’re more likely to keep it off and cause less trauma to your body. 


Many Factors of Fitness

Of course, weight loss is only one component of health and fitness. Clients of any age can start a program for cardio conditioning, strength training, stretching, core balance, mental rest and relaxation, sleep, and healthy eating (after they consult their doctor, of course). Yoga, dance lessons or walking clubs are just a few examples of healthy choices for any client.  

You are never too old or out of shape to get started! Even clients who have been on medication for years can find their way to good health by starting with a few basic lifestyle changes that can also lead to better rates and lower premiums.  


About the Author

Rachel Landrum has been with Ash Brokerage more than eight years with an eye on a holistic approach to underwriting. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Purdue University, is a member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, has taken many LOMA exams and has passed all of the Academy of Life Insurance Underwriting exams. Health and fitness are an important part of her life, and she encourages everyone to start healthy habits no matter where they are in life.   


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Ask an Underwriter: Why should I care about my client’s colonoscopy?


It may be an uncomfortable topic, but you may want to ask your clients if they’ve ever had a colonoscopy. Why? Colonoscopies are important in screening and preventative measure for colorectal cancer. 

In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer (excluding skin cancers) and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016, 134,490 people will be diagnosed and 49,190 people will die from this disease.*

The good news? When it’s discovered early, colorectal cancer is highly treatable. In many cases, regular screening can prevent cancer by finding and removing polyps before they become cancer. And if cancer is already present, earlier detection means a better chance at a longer life.


Screening tests include: 

  • Colonoscopy – Done with either a scope or special imaging (X-rays), these tests look at the structure of the colon to find any abnormal areas. Polyps found during these tests can be removed before they become cancerous, so these tests are preferred for screening. The American Cancer Society recommends individuals be screened with a colonoscopy at age 50, but people at higher risk for colorectal cancer might need to start screening earlier.

  • Stool Cards – This is a less invasive screening methods which tests for occult blood in the stool. Positive test results typically lead to a colonoscopy to fully investigate.  

  • Blood Testing – In combination with the above tests, another screening can also be done by obtaining a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) value through blood testing. Normal CEA level is less than 2.5 ng/ml; when CEA is greater than 5ng/ml, further investigation is often warranted. 

As we see with many cancers, survival rates for colorectal cancer have been progressively improving since the mid-1980s as a direct result of early detection, routine screening and increased public awareness. Currently there are more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the United States!*  


Underwriting Colorectal Cancers

For clients with colorectal cancers, insurability is largely dependent on the age at diagnosis, years since treatment, and other details. Those with early forms of cancer may be insurable with completion of successful treatment within one to two years, while those with more advanced stages could be postponed a full four years or be uninsurable. 

When evaluating someone with history of polyps and/or colon cancer, it’s important to know:

  • Results of colonoscopy performed as part of screening or a result of signs and symptoms
  • Results of all pathology reports to include staging
  • Results of colonoscopy performed as follow-up on any polyp(s) and/or cancer excision
  • Family history of colorectal cancer, age of diagnosis and relation to our client

With so many variables involved, we’ve created a. No matter the situation, we encourage you to ask questions and get all the facts. Have a specific question? Check out the resources below or drop me a line and we'll be happy to help.


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About the Author

Diane Fulk has been in the life insurance industry for more than 40 years, helping many families secure much needed life insurance coverage and peace of mind. She approaches each case, like each person, individually. She is certified in EKG interpretations, has passed all three of the Academy of Life Insurance Underwriting exams and many LOMA exams.

underwriting cancer

Ask an Underwriter: Cardiac Complications


When you come across clients with a cardiac history, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for insurance. Different diagnoses or symptoms require different tests … and lead to different outcomes for underwriting.  

First of all, cardiac disorders or diseases affect the heart in different ways: 

  • Atrial fibrillation (irregular rhythm), sinus bradycardia (very slow heart rate) or tachycardia (very fast heart rate) are disruptions in the “electrical” system or the “wiring” of the heart muscle

  • High blood pressure or coronary artery disease are circulatory disorders

  • Cardiomyopathy, congenital and/or acquired abnormalities (diseases which can affect the heart muscle or valves) are muscular or structural disorders 

The category or type of heart disease an individual is treated for will dictate the diagnostic or routine cardiac exam and/or testing they will undergo. 


“Electrical” disruptions

The basic heart exam will consist of review of symptoms and vital statistics (blood pressure, pulse and oxygen levels), plus a stethoscope exam and a resting electrocardiogram (EKG). If further evaluation is needed, a Holter monitor (a continuous recording of a person’s heart rhythm) may be ordered as well as an echocardiogram (ECHO – a type of ultrasound test that uses sound waves to create pictures of the heart).


Circulatory disorders

Exams and testing will include a basic cardiac exam, with a resting EKG and blood work. If further evaluation is needed, there may be one or more of the following tests: stress test or stress test with nuclear imaging (measures a heart’s response to exertion or stress and is induced by exercise or drug stimulation), ECHO, stress ECHO, or cardiac CT angiography. Depending on findings, a more invasive exam, such as cardiac catheterization, may be required.


Muscular or structural disorders

Testing will include the basic cardiac exam, a chest x-ray, and an EKG.  Depending on symptoms and findings, additional testing can include one of more of the following:  ECHO, stress ECHO, cardiac MRI or CT, cardiac catheterization, or a cardiac biopsy.


Underwriting Assessment

When considering an applicant with a cardiac history of any kind, a life insurance underwriter hopes to see that the individual:  

  • Goes to regular follow-up visits with their doctor
  • Follows all treatments, including medication, changes in diet, or exercise (if recommended)
  • Has up-to-date, routine serial cardiac testing (stress test, ECHO, etc.) with results that show stability of the underlying disorder, as well as good heart function

By proving they’re compliant with treatments and doing well, applicants with a cardiac history may be considered more favorably in underwriting, giving them more favorable options for coverage.  

With so many variables involved – from the diagnosis/treatment details to carrier risk assessment – we’ve created three comprehensive questionnaires to assist you in your fact-finding efforts. 

No matter the situation, we encourage you to ask questions and get all the facts. Have a specific question? Check out the resources below or drop me a line and we'll be happy to help.


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About the Author

For more than 34 years, Charlie Kuhn has taken a personal interest in every case. To her, it’s more than a file – it’s a person trying to protect the people they care about, and she can think of no better vocation than to help provide financial and emotional security for others. Through her personal commitment to continuous professional growth, Charlie is one test away from becoming an Associate of the Life Management Institute. She is already an Associate of Customer Service with LOMA, has passed all three of the Academy of Life Underwriting exams, and is certified in EKG interpretation.



underwriting cardiac heart

Ask an Underwriter: Cervical Cancer


Know the impact on health and underwriting

Cervical cancer may be one of the most treatable and preventable cancers out there, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t worry about it. Education is important – not only for prevention and early detection, but also for underwriting. 

According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC), each year, an estimated 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and one-third will die as a result. So even though the overall risk of cervical cancer has declined over the last few decades, it’s still a serious issue. 

Causes of cervical cancer

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common infection known to cause cell changes on the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States – so common, in fact, nearly all sexually active men and women will get it at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control

Cervical cancer is preventable

Insuring Cervical Cancer

When it comes to insurance, your clients’ participation in regular Pap screenings not only helps reduce the risk of advanced cancer, it may also be viewed as a credit during the underwriting process. 

Earlier detection and successful treatment rates have also increased the insurability of individuals with a history of cervical cancer. Someone with a low-grade diagnosis can potentially secure a non-rated offer, and someone with a high-grade/early stage diagnosis could qualify for rated offers within a year, and possibly standard rates after three years. 

With so many variables involved – from the diagnosis/treatment details to carrier risk assessment – we’ve created a comprehensive questionnaire to assist you in your fact-finding efforts. 

No matter the situation, we encourage you to ask questions and get all the facts. Have a specific question? Check out the resources below or drop me a line and we'll be happy to help.


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About the Author

Dianne Leidigh has earned an unwavering reputation, among customers and constituents alike, as a respected partner and trusted resource. Through her personal commitment to continuous professional growth, she’s become an Associate of the Life Management Institute, Associate of Customer Service with LOMA, and an Associate of the Academy of Life Underwriting. As Dianne approaches her second decade in the brokerage life insurance industry, much of which dedicated to advocating risk, her passion for helping others, commitment to personal growth, and perseverance truly yield winning solutions!  


life insurance underwriting ask an underwriter cancer cervical cancer