Having cancer can affect your finances. If you are working, you may need to take time off. And you may have more expenses, such as heating if you’re at home more than usual, transport or parking charges for trips to hospital. There may be grants or benefits you can claim to help.
Cancer can also affect mortgages, pensions and insurance.
Mortgages and life insurance
If you already have a mortgage and life insurance when you’re diagnosed with cancer, you don’t have to tell them. But if you’re having trouble with payments, it’s best to let the company know as soon as possible. They should offer help, such as a payment holiday or lowering your repayments for a while.
it’s best to stick with your current mortgage and life insurance if you have them. It’ll be easier than trying to get a new loan or policy. You don’t actually have to disclose medical details to get a new mortgage. But the lender may ask you to get life insurance to cover the mortgage loan. You do have to give medical details for that, and it’s likely to be more expensive.
When taking out a new private pension policy, you have to fill in a medical questionnaire. So you have to tell them if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.
If you have a work pension when you’re diagnosed, you may be able to claim on it and retire early. You have to be at least 55 to qualify. If you are younger than that, and have a very advanced cancer that can’t be cured, you may be able to take a tax free lump sum. To do that, you make a claim to the pension trustees.
If you already have private health insurance, you’ll need to check your policy in order to claim. They vary a great deal and cancer isn’t always covered.
If you want to take out health insurance after you’ve been diagnosed, it may be difficult and more expensive. Your cancer may not be covered. New policies often won’t cover illnesses and health conditions you already have, or have had treatment for in the past few years (the exact time period varies).
Problems with travel insurance are common for people who’ve had cancer. It is possible to get it but it’s likely to cost more. How difficult and expensive that will be depends on your medical circumstances and where you want to go. It will be more expensive for countries with high healthcare costs – the USA, for example.
If you have an existing long-term travel policy, you must tell them about your diagnosis. If you don’t, they won’t cover you if you make a claim.
You don’t have to have travel insurance to go abroad – but if you don’t, you are taking a risk. Travel insurance covers your baggage and cancellations as well as medical costs. It also covers personal liability if you have an accident that harms someone else.
To get cover, you’ll need to answer questions about your medical history. You may need to get a letter from your doctor to say you’re well enough to travel.
The British Insurance Brokers Association has a travel insurance directory that can help you find cover.
Car insurance companies like to know of changes in your health. They can use it to refuse a claim if you don’t tell them. You can carry on driving if you have cancer unless it’s affecting your ability to drive.
If your doctor advises you not to drive, you have to tell your insurance company.
You have to tell the DVLA , and your insurance company, if you have a condition that affects your brain or nervous system, or you are on medicines with side effects that could affect your driving.
Grants and state benefits
If you have a low income, you may be able to claim state benefits. Depending on your age, you may be able to claim Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Once you’re receiving a benefit, someone who helps look after you may be able to claim ‘Carers Allowance’ too.
There is a limit to how much you can have in savings and income. This varies between benefits. You have to be receiving some state benefits before you can qualify for others.
There are special rules on benefits for people who are nearing the end of their life due to an illness. For example, if a medical professional thinks you have less than 6 months to live they can fill in a form called DS5100 with information about your condition to help you make an application for some benefits. You can read more about benefits for people nearing the end of their life on the Government’s website.
The benefits system is complicated and changes frequently. So we haven’t given detailed information here. You can find the latest information on benefits on the Government’s website.
Travel to hospital
The NHS Health Care Travel costs scheme will refund travel costs if you’re on benefits or have a low income. You pay upfront and then claim the cost back within 3 months. You must provide travel receipts, your appointment letter or card and proof of benefits you claim. The NHS website has more information on who qualifies and how you claim.
You may qualify for a grant to help with increased costs due to your cancer. Macmillan give one-off grants to cover extra heating costs, travelling for treatment or other expenses. There is a limit to how much you can have in savings and income.
Some energy companies take part in schemes run by an organisation called Charis. These are for people struggling with energy bills. If your energy company isn’t listed, it’s still worth contacting them if you’re having trouble meeting your bills. They may be able to move you to a cheaper plan or give you a grant towards the cost.
Where to get advice
You can find more information about managing your money on the British Liver Trust money section. This includes links to insurance companies for people with medical conditions
The organisation Turn2Us has a benefits calculator you can use. They also have a grants search on their website. You put in where you live, your age and gender and it’ll give you a list of grants you may qualify for.
The charity Macmillan Cancer Support has benefits advisors you can speak to on the phone. You can also talk to them about claiming a one-off grant.
Content last reviewed: October 2022
Next review date: October 2025