Couple holding hands after cancer diagnosis

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The Exeter

A cancer diagnosis can be life-altering. At the very least, it is bound to be a difficult and stressful time for both the cancer patient and their family.

You want to make sure that you get the best care you can in a timely fashion. Getting cancer insurance can reassure you that you will get the treatment you need when you need it.

If cancer cover is something you have considered but don’t know much about, read on. This article explains what exactly cancer insurance is and what it covers, whether it is covered by standard insurance policies, and how different kinds of cancer can impact your premium. If you would like answers to these queries and others, we hope to cover them all here.

What is cancer insurance?

Cancer cover allows you to access private treatment for cancer. This may include cutting-edge procedures or drugs that are too costly for the NHS to provide. Seeking out private care also allows you faster access to such treatments as you get to avoid lengthy NHS waiting times.

On top of these benefits, when you use private medical insurance, you are also given the freedom to select your preferred hospital in the UK, either NHS-run or private, and a consultant of your choosing.

Part of why a cancer diagnosis can be so difficult and anxiety-inducing is the lack of control patients often feel. Cancer insurance gives you back some feeling of control, letting you decide the path your treatment journey will follow.

Does health insurance cover cancer?

Most health insurance providers in the UK cover cancer. However, some insurers may not cover particular types of cancer. Others may cover all forms of cancer but not certain experimental therapies that you may wish to use.

When it comes to health insurance, there is no such thing as one size fits all. To find the best match for your needs, it is recommended that you do as much research as possible and seek out professional advice. That way, you can be sure that whatever decision you make will be well-informed and best suited to your individual needs.

Is cancer covered under health insurance as standard?

Different insurers have different policies on cancer cover. That said, most health insurance providers do cover cancer as standard. If it is not automatically included in your plan, you can usually add it to your plan for an additional charge.

Again, just because cancer tends to be covered under most health insurance policies does not mean that all treatments will be as well. Experimental drugs or unproven treatments may not be covered under a given insurance plan.

If you have had cancer in the past, it is not guaranteed you will be covered for it, as most policies do not include pre-existing conditions. Some insurance plans will cover you but usually only if you have been living without symptoms for a certain period of time.

What types of cancer can you get insurance for?

Not all insurers cover all types of cancer; however, you should be able to get cover for any type, providing you look in the right place.

If you are not sure what types of cancer an insurer covers, it is best to double-check either with your policy documents, your insurer or with your insurance broker. That way, you can be sure that you get the care you need.

What does cancer insurance cover?

Every health insurance policy covers a different range of services and treatments, so it’s difficult to say exactly what your cancer insurance will cover. However, there are several treatments that are frequently included in health insurance plans.

Some of the treatments and services often covered under private health insurance for cancer are:

  • Access to drugs and/or therapies that may not be available through the NHS due to their high cost.
  • Access to chemotherapy treatments at home rather than in a hospital.
  • Access to a private nurse who can care for your home nursing needs over the course of your treatment.
  • Ability to choose your preferred medical facility in the UK, whether that’s in a private hospital or an NHS hospital. If the latter, you would receive an NHS cash benefit.
  • Ability to choose your preferred consultant, giving you as much control as possible over the treatment process.
  • Monitoring during remission; your care does not stop after your treatment.
  • Access to end of life palliative care. Any hospice you use will receive donations from your insurance provider.

When choosing your insurer, you should double-check that the features you are most concerned with are definitely included in the plan. Again, the above list is intended to give you an idea of the treatments and services usually included in private healthcare policies. It is not a guarantee that every plan will include these features.

Most insurers include cancer cover as part of their ‘core’ or inpatient cover:


  • Chemo/radiotherapy
    Treatment for the side effects of chemo/radiotherapy, as well as the option to have chemotherapy at home
  • Bone-strengthening drugs
  • Bone marrow / stem cell transplants
  • Preventative treatment
    E.g. the removal of a healthy breast in the event that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer in the other breast
  • Donation of up to £10,000 to a hospice
    In the form of a £100 per night benefit if you need end of life care
  • NHS cash benefit
    If you receive NHS treatment for cancer that would have been covered by the policy, you’ll receive £100 a day for each day you receive treatment as an inpatient, day-patient or outpatient, including each day spent receiving IV chemotherapy at home and £100 each week you’re taking oral chemotherapy drugs at home.
  • Ongoing needs
    If you require regular replacement of tubes, drains or stents for example, Aviva will pay for up to 5 years after your cancer treatment has finished
  • Up to £500 for wigs and up to £5,000 for external prostheses.

Note that Aviva does not pay for hormone therapy unless deemed medically necessary to shrink a tumour before surgery or radiotherapy

AXA PPP Healthcare

AXA has two levels of cancer care:

  • Comprehensive Cancer Cover
  • NHS Cancer Support.

Comprehensive Cancer Cover offers full cancer cover, while NHS Cancer Support, an option that can be selected to lower the premium, does not cover cancer except in the case that the NHS does not pay for a particular drug or treatment due to its cost. This means all cancer treatment will have to be on the NHS unless there’s a particular drug or treatment your consultant recommends that the NHS doesn’t supply.

  • Chemo/radiotherapy
    If you’ve previously had cancer before taking out the plan or you’ve removed Comprehensive Cancer Cover for cheaper PMI, AXA’s NHS Cancer Support will see you treated for cancer on the NHS but with any drugs, not routinely available on the NHS paid for by AXA. AXA also allows for chemotherapy to be given at home.
  • Bone-strengthening drugs
  • Hormone therapy
  • Bone marrow / stem cell transplants
  • Hospice donation
    £100 donation to charity for every night you receive the end of life hospice or home care.
  • Up to £150 a year for wigs and up to £5,000 per year for external prostheses.

AXA will pay for unproven drugs in certain circumstances, such as if you’ve been invited to participate in a randomised clinical trial approved by an appropriate ethics committee.


Bupa has two levels of cancer care:

  • Cancer Cover
  • NHS Cancer Cover Plus.

On a Comprehensive (inpatient and outpatient) policy, Cancer Cover pays for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in full, whereas NHS Cancer Cover Plus pays for the diagnosis of cancer but all treatment will be on the NHS unless there are drugs/treatments only available privately.

On a Treatment & Care (outpatient only) policy, with Cancer Cover, all post-diagnosis treatment is paid in full whereas under NHS Cancer Cover Plus all diagnosis and treatment will be on the NHS unless there are drugs/treatments only available privately.

  • Chemo/radiotherapy
    Including genetic testing to match chemotherapy to you and your type of cancer
  • Hormone therapy
  • Bone-strengthening drugs
  • Bone marrow / stem cell transplants
  • For breast and bowel cancer symptoms, the option to bypass your GP and go straight to Bupa (where you have diagnostic cover and your symptoms are covered by the policy)
  • NHS Cash Benefit
    If you have Cancer Cover but still opt to have your treatment on the NHS, you’ll receive an NHS cash benefit of £100 per night up to 35 nights per year for each night you spend in the hospital receiving cancer treatment.

Bupa does not pay charitable donations towards end of life / palliative care in a hospice.

The Exeter

The Exeter places neither financial nor time limits on its cancer treatment.

  • Chemo/radiotherapy
    Including the option to have chemotherapy at home where possible
  • Hormone therapy
  • Bone strengthening drugs
  • Bone marrow / stem cell transplants
  • Donation of up to £250 to a hospice
    If you need end of life / palliative care
  • NHS cash benefit
    £150 per night for up to 30 nights if you have free NHS inpatient treatment for cancer that would otherwise have been covered under your policy
  • Monitoring
    Full cover for follow up reviews related to the continuing care of cancer, including when in remission

The Exeter does not cover preventative treatment, including the prophylactic removal of healthy tissue to reduce future risk of disease


  • Chemo/radiotherapy
    Including the option to have chemotherapy at home if appropriate
  • Bone-strengthening drugs
  • Hormone therapy
  • Scalp cooling
    To reduce hair loss from chemotherapy
  • Follow up consultations
  • Targeted cancer screenings
    Discounted screenings and risk assessments for breast, bowel and cervical cancer
  • End of life care
    Pain relief plus the services of a qualified nurse at home for up to 14 days (max £1,000 per day)
  • NHS cash benefit
    £250 per night (up to a maximum of £2,000) for inpatient treatment and £125 per day (up to a maximum of £500) for day-patient treatment
  • Up to £300 per condition for wigs / Up to £200 per condition for mastectomy bras / Up to £5,000 per condition for external prostheses

Why should i have cancer insurance?

While it’s true that cancer care has come leaps and bounds in recent years, cancer treatments and therapies can still come at a significant cost.

One in two people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. As such, it’s worth preparing for the worst, as much as we hope to never have to deal with such a debilitating illness. By including cancer treatment in your private medical insurance plan, you can rest assured knowing that you will get the treatment you need when you need it, avoiding lengthy NHS wait times.

Private health insurance FAQ

Healthplan insurance broker answering questions
Is cancer cover worth it?
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not health insurance for cancer is worth the expense. However, given the frequency with which the disease is diagnosed, it is at least worth considering. With cancer insurance, if you are diagnosed with the disease, you know that you will have access to the treatment you need in a timely fashion.
What’s not covered by cancer insurance?
Every insurance plan is different and includes different things. Some plans may not cover certain kinds of cancer. Others may not cover you against previous cases of cancer. Others may not include experimental drugs or unproven therapies.
The best way to find out what your policy covers and what it doesn’t is to either read your policy documents or talk with your insurer or insurance broker for advice.
Can you be denied insurance for cancer?
You may be denied insurance for cancer under certain circumstances. For example, not every health insurance policy will cover pre-existing conditions, so if you have had cancer in the past but no longer do, you may be denied it.
Can health insurance cover pre-existing cancer?
Health insurance does not usually cover pre-existing conditions, and this is true of pre-existing cancer, but some do. Usually, health insurance policies that do cover pre-existing cancer will only cover you if you have been symptom-free for a given period of time.
Once again, every insurance policy is different. If you are unsure whether an insurance policy covers pre-existing cancer, it is always best to double-check.
Will a family history of cancer impact my premium?
Usually, insurers do not consider your family history when calculating your premium. The only time a family history of cancer may present an issue is when you are on a family health insurance plan and an immediate family member on the cover has had cancer in the past.

If you find yourself in this situation, it may be worth taking out separate health insurance policies. Insurance providers may downgrade cancer cover for everybody on your family plan if even one person on the policy has had it before.

Will a type of cancer impact my premium?
Certain types of cancer may impact your premium. If it is a form of cancer that is likely to come back or to affect you in the future, then the cost of your premium may go up to reflect this. Do not hesitate to reach out to your insurer or insurance broker for advice if you are unsure.