What cancers are covered by critical illness insurance?

6 min Read Published: 20 Dec 2023

What cancers are covered by critical illness insurance?Understanding what cancers are covered by critical illness insurance can be vital as many policies will state that they do not cover all cancers. In this article, we look at which cancers are covered on a critical illness policy as well as how an insurance company is likely to define a critical illness on its policy.

You can jump ahead to find out "How to buy the best critical illness insurance for cancer" where we explain how to buy cancer cover and get up to £100 cashback* when you do.

What is critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover is a type of insurance that pays out a lump sum of money or an income if the insured person is diagnosed with one of the illnesses that are listed as being covered on the policy. The types of conditions that are covered vary between different insurance companies but most cover cancer, heart attack and stroke. The policy documents will detail which illnesses are covered and the criteria for making a claim.

A large number of claims on a critical illness policy are for cancer and with the rate of cancer incidence increasing, it is often the reason why people choose to buy critical illness insurance. You can read more about critical illness insurance in our article, "Critical illness insurance - what is it and is it worth having?"

According to the NHS, 1 in 2 people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime.

How are cancers defined on a critical illness insurance policy?

Cancer definitions can vary between different critical illness insurance policies but there are some things that will help you to understand and compare the cancer cover within different critical illness policies.

  • All critical illness insurance policies have to cover cancer in line with the definitions outlined by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) as a minimum
  • Many critical illness policies exceed the ABI standards providing more opportunities to claim
  • Some cancers that cannot be graded are listed separately from the main cancer definition as they cannot be defined in the same way as tumours.

The full ABI definition includes a large amount of medical terminology which can be difficult to decipher. So, anyone unsure of whether their cancer diagnosis is covered by their critical illness insurance policy should always speak to the claims department of the insurance company and if in doubt, speak to the adviser who arranged the critical insurance for you.

Cancers covered by critical illness insurance

On the face of it, all critical illness insurance policies cover stage one to four cancer but it is important to understand that this type of definition won't cover all cancers and some early stages of cancer are listed separately from the main cancer cover because they cannot be defined in the same way as malignant cells.

Common cancers that are covered by critical illness insurance include:

  • Bowel cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Benign Brain tumour
  • Benign spinal cord tumour
  • Cancer of the liver

For men, cancer of the bowel, prostate, lung and brain/spinal tumours are most common. Prostate cancer does have some specific definitions that need to be met to make a valid claim. The types of cancer with the highest incidence for women have been cancers of the bowel, breast, lung and brain/spinal tumours.

Cancers that may be covered by critical illness insurance

Cancers that are not staged when the histology is done are usually listed separately from the main cancer definition.

Cancers that you may be covered for and may provide a full payout depending on which insurance company you choose include:

  • Neuroendocrine tumours
  • Severe aplastic anaemia
  • Advanced chronic lymphocytic leukaemia
  • Advanced hodgkins disease
  • Advanced non-hodgkins lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma

Cancers that may be covered by critical illness insurance for a partial payment

A number of cancers that are less serious and easily treated with high survival rates can be covered by your critical illness insurance policy but will pay out a proportion of the full sum that is insured on the policy.

Partial payments are valuable because they provide up to £30,000 depending on how much critical illness insurance you have and which insurance company you are insured with. In a situation where you may need to take time off work for treatment or pay for someone else to take care of your children, the money paid could give you the means to cover this or even opt for private cancer treatment. Less serious cancers generally have longer wait times on the NHS for treatment because they are not life-threatening making private treatment even more attractive.

Many critical illness insurance policies will pay part of the insured amount if you are diagnosed with a less serious cancer and continue to cover you for the full amount if you are later diagnosed with cancer that met the full payment definition. Some critical illness insurances cover a larger number of less serious conditions than others so it is always beneficial to speak with a critical illness insurance expert* to check how comprehensive your cover is before you buy.

Here are some examples of cancer diagnoses that may allow you to claim part of the sum insured on your critical illness insurance policy:

  • Pre-malignant
  • Borderline malignancy
  • Low malignant potential
  • Cancer in situ
  • Desmoid-type fibromatosis
  • Myelodysplasia
  • Moderately severe aplasia

Are any cancers excluded from critical illness insurance?

Yes, some policies will exclude some cancers but critical illness insurance policies only pay for what is covered in the list of illnesses and through the definition attached to each illness. Your cancer diagnosis has to match the illness and definition described in the terms and conditions of your policy.

There may be instances where your diagnosis doesn't fall within the parameters of what your insurance will cover and this is why seeking out the most comprehensive critical illness insurance is important as not all policies provide the same cover.

Does critical illness insurance cover child cancer?

Yes, as long as you have children's critical illness insurance with your critical illness insurance then your children will be covered for cancer.

Some critical illness insurance providers cover child-specific conditions which can make the cover more comprehensive. Don't assume that children's cover is included as some insurance companies require you to select this in addition to the adult insurance. Children's critical illness insurance can also be tiered with some insurance companies where you might have the option to choose a basic or enhanced version of the cover. The insurance company Guardian 1821 uniquely offer children's critical illness insurance with an adult's insurance even if it is only life insurance.

Which other types of insurance can cover cancer?

It can also be helpful to look at health insurance which would pay for private treatment meaning you would not be limited by the amount of money paid out by a critical illness insurance. You can find more information about this type of insurance in our article, "General & Medical child-only health insurance review – is it the best health insurance plan for your child?" and "Which is the best family health insurance policy that covers my children?".

How to buy the best critical illness insurance for cancer

Not all critical illness insurance policies provide the same quality of cancer cover. You should also be aware that there are versions of serious illness covers available in the market that aren't called critical illness insurance because they don't match the ABI standards for this type of insurance. Some of these policies are very good and others provide limited benefits compared to critical illness insurance.

I have 20 years of experience working in the personal insurance industry and have a deep understanding of critical illness insurance. Policies have evolved so even if you have critical illness insurance it is worth reviewing the cover that you have in case you can upgrade the benefits.

Critical illness policies are not easy to understand and it can often feel like you need a medical degree to interpret how the various critical illness policies compare.

The best way to source the best critical illness insurance for cancer is to speak to a critical illness insurance expert*. Here are some of the ways in which the adviser can help you:

  • They can compare the best critical illness prices across the whole market
  • They can compare the best critical illness cover based on your personal preferences
  • They can provide impartial advice on how much cover to take based on your personal circumstances
  • They can look at your medical history in order to find the cheapest and most comprehensive cover

There is no obligation to buy the policy that is recommended to you but you will get up to £100 cashback as a Money to the Masses reader if you do.


If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch