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Navigating Uncertainty: Dreams, Decisions, and Insurance with Cancer

Living with cancer can impact every aspect of your life and can be a complex and emotional experience. A cancer diagnosis can feel like your world is falling apart, and plans that were once clear and full of dreams may now seem uncertain.  With 1 in 2 people likely to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, learning to navigate through the uncertainty is something many of us will be faced with, whether it’s you or a loved one who has been diagnosed.  This article features a case study of someone who has experienced cancer and explores how a diagnosis can impact your dreams and affect important decisions. It also discusses how life insurance for cancer patients can help. We will answer some common questions regarding cancer and take a look at the most frequently searched questions with Google search volume.

Facing the unknown and planning for the future

This case study features Rachel, a 38-year-old hairdresser who was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in February 2019. After discovering a lump, Rachel booked an appointment with her GP who referred her to the hospital for comprehensive tests and investigations.  Her suspicions were confirmed and after undergoing a rigorous treatment routine covering radiotherapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and bone infusions, thankfully, Rachel got the all-clear in November 2021. Rachel’s cancer diagnosis prompted her to re-evaluate her priorities and make significant life decisions, including taking out life insurance, which she considered a means of securing her son’s financial future. Rachel said, “I was in a somewhat fortunate position compared to other families going through something similar which allowed me to reduce my working hours to spend more quality time with my family, embracing each moment with them.” Smiling family with young child She decided to live life to the fullest and start doing the things she had been putting off, like taking her daughter to Disney and going on more mini-breaks. Asked if she had any regrets or if there was anything she wished she’d known prior, Rachel said, “Looking back, I realise the importance of living for now. While I don’t regret anything, I do wish I’d focused on spending more time with family before the diagnosis. I generally put life insurance off previously as I didn’t think I would need it as I was fit and healthy. When I realised how hard it was to be accepted during and post-treatment, I would definitely urge others to look into it sooner than I did.” A cancer diagnosis can cause a lot of uncertainty, forcing people to make crucial life decisions similar to Rachel’s and explore financial safeguards such as taking out life insurance to give a renowned sense of control and provide a financial safety net. Life insurance for cancer patients can help alleviate money worries, allowing them to focus on and prioritise their health.  As Rachel found, finding life insurance after cancer can be unexpectedly hard, especially when half of all people will be diagnosed with a form of cancer at some point in their lives. Finding the right life insurance after a cancer diagnosis shouldn’t be hard and some people may rely on insurance brokers to find the right insurance. 

What are the most common types of cancer?

While there are more than 200 types of cancer, the most common types of cancer in the UK are breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. Breast cancer is the most prevalent among women, with 55,545 cases between 2016 and 2018, and prostate cancer is the most common among men, with 52,254 cases between 2016 and 2018.  Although breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, it surprisingly only ranks 30th when it comes to average monthly search volume. Meanwhile, prostate cancer, which is the most common cancer in men, ranks fifth in average monthly search volume. Interestingly, lung cancer, which is the third most common cancer, ranks 39th in monthly search volume.  The cancer with the most average monthly searches is skin cancer, which is also the fifth most diagnosed cancer. Lymphoma has the second-highest average monthly search volume, while melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are third and fourth respectively. Melanoma and basal cell carcinoma are both different forms of skin cancer.

What are the stages of cancer, and what do they mean?

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, doctors may refer to the size of the tumour and how far it’s spread from where it originated in stages. Two main staging systems are used, which are the number staging system and the TNM staging system. 

Number staging system

Doctors will sometimes use a number staging system. There are five stages in total, which are:
  • Stage 0 – The abnormal cells are still in the original location (in situ) and haven’t spread, but may become cancerous in the future.
  • Stage 1 – This refers to the cancer being small and it hasn’t spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
  • Stage 2 – The cancer is bigger than stage 1 but hasn’t spread and remains within the original area.
  • Stage 3 – This means the cancer is bigger and may have spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes.
  • Stage 4 – The cancer has spread to distant parts of the body (also called metastatic cancer).

TNM staging system

Letters and numbers are used in the TNM staging system to describe the cancer and are:
  • T (Tumour): This describes the size and location of the cancer (between 1 to 4, 1 being small and 4 being large)
  • N (Nodes): This describes if the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes (between 0 to 3, 0 means no lymph nodes have cancer. 3 means there are a lot of lymph nodes that have cancer)
  • M (Metastasis): This describes if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body (can be 0 or 1, 0 means the cancer hasn’t spread and 1 means it has)

What are Grades? Are they the same as Stages?

The appearance of the cancerous cells is described by grades. Doctors use a grading system to understand how cancerous cells look under a microscope. Generally, a lower grade means the cancer is likely to grow slowly and is less likely to spread, and a higher grade means the cancer is likely to grow faster. The three grades are:
  • Grade 1 – These cells resemble healthy cells, suggesting a slower-growing cancer.
  • Grade 2 – These cells show more abnormalities compared to healthy cells, indicating a potentially faster growth rate.
  • Grade 3 – These cells look very different from healthy cells, suggesting a more aggressive cancer that might increase or spread more quickly.
Navigating a cancer diagnosis can bring a lot of uncertainty and trying to find the right insurance policy can be difficult, but our cancer insurance specialists are experienced and on hand to help with any questions or concerns you may have. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, get in touch with The Insurance Surgery to discuss how life insurance for cancer patients can help.