Cancer is fast becoming a global threat: And cancer insurance can be your safety net

  • Health Insurance Articles


Cancer is no stranger to us humans. The world's first documented case of the disease can be traced back to ancient Egypt in 1500 BC, where eight cases of tumors were recorded. Many millennia later, cancer is still on our radar today, with incidence of the disease only rising as the years go by.

In 2020 alone, cancer accounted for around 10 million deaths worldwide. In terms of new cases of the disease, data from the World Health Organization shows that the following types of cancer were the most common in 2020.[1] 

Type of cancer

Number of cases

Breast cancer

2.26 million

Lung cancer

2.21 million

Colorectal cancer

1.93 million

Prostate cancer

1.41 million

Skin cancer

1.20 million

Stomach cancer

1.09 million

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The future does not look much better, either. Projections by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reveal that by 2040, the burden of cancer may rise to an estimated 28.4 million new cases worldwide.[2] In truth, the actual number of global cases of cancer in the future will be determined by a combination of many factors, like the environment we live in, the changes in our population structure, and the manner in which our healthcare systems evolve in the coming years.

Why has cancer become a problem in modern life?

Although cancer is not a modern disease, there's no denying that it has become a prevailing problem in modern life. Many risk factors linked to the disease can be traced back to changes in the way we lead our lives in the 21st century. While risk factors do not necessarily cause the disease, they may make the body more vulnerable to the disease.

Here are some reasons cancer has become a global threat in modern times.

  • Physical inactivity[3]

    With most jobs now becoming tech-based, people are spending longer hours sitting in front of a screen. While that may pay handsomely, physical inactivity can prove to be a costly mistake over the long run. According to the WHO, being physically inactive is the fourth major risk factor for worldwide mortality, and it accounts for 22% of colon cancers.

    Several studies have also shown that sedentary behaviour increases the risk for many cancers. Here's a preview of how much the risk for certain types of cancer goes up due to physical inactivity.

    • Risk for endometrial cancer: Up by 66%
    • Risk for colon cancer: Up by 24%
    • Risk for lung cancer: Up by 21%
  • Lifestyle habits

    Other lifestyle habits linked to modern living have also increased the global incidence of cancer. Top among these are:

    • Eating an unhealthy diet
    • Overconsumption of alcohol
    • Tobacco smoking

    While no food may prevent you from developing cancers, several studies have found strong correlations between unhealthy diets and cancer incidence. Increased preference for processed foods has made people drift away from a balanced diet. This could prove to be a dangerous shift, because some processed foods have been shown to contain cancer-causing compounds. In addition to this, not eating a balanced diet also weakens the body's immune system and makes people vulnerable to cancer.

    Alcohol consumption, on the other hand, has been linked to cancers of the head and neck, and liver and colorectal cancer. Tobacco, as you may have guessed, increases the possibility of developing lung cancer.

  • Environmental factors

    Even if you do not possess any harmful lifestyle habits, your environment may be a potential trigger for the disease. This is because of the presence of many harmful chemicals in your immediate environment, such as:

    • Chemicals like formaldehyde
    • Secondhand tobacco smoke
    • Wood dust
    • Untreated or poorly treated mineral oils
    • Pesticides in fruits and vegetables
    • Carcinogenic substances in daily use products

    As you can see, more often than not, these environmental factors may be beyond your control. And while they don't always cause cancer, they can certainly increase the risk of developing the disease.


Where is medical science today?

The other side of modern life comes with a silver lining. Today, advancements in science and technology have made it possible for doctors to treat advanced cancers, often with heartening results. In 2020 alone, the world saw more than 10 breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment.

The success of the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 has given rise to promising offshoots in cancer research too. Clinical trials for a cancer vaccine are on the cards! Scientists are also studying several drugs that could help people with difficult cancers like multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer and triple negative breast cancer.

Despite all these positive developments, however, we are still far from finding an effective cure for cancer. There are many reasons for this. For starters, cancer is not really one disease. It is a group of diseases, each different from the other. So, there's no one-size-fits-all cure that's possible. Additionally, much like medical science, cancer is also constantly evolving. And metastasis, where cancer cells spread from one part of the body to another, is a major problem in cancer treatment.

The ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan, for instance, is a comprehensive cancer insurance plan that covers all stages of the disease.😀😊

So, the million dollar question is – Can we completely eradicate cancer?

Only time will tell. But from where we stand today, this cannot be predicted accurately. What we do know, however, is that a cancer diagnosis can be extremely terrifying. In addition to the physical stress of chemotherapy and the emotional stress that comes with the diagnosis, cancer can also be financially draining. 😃

Some cancers may be more affordable to treat than others. But there's no denying that the costs of cancer treatment are only rising with each passing year. The average Indian may not be capable of bearing the economic burden of treating or managing the disease. Take the case of oral cancer, for instance. One study revealed that in 2020 alone, India spent around Rs. 2,386 crores for treating this disease.[4] On an individual level, it may take lakhs of rupees to treat cancer. The more advanced the disease is, the higher the costs involved.

So, while you may not be able to prevent cancer altogether, there is one thing that is within your control - you can ensure that you have a financial safety net ready in case you develop the Big C.

That safety net is cancer insurance. With a cancer insurance plan like the ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan backing you, you can rest assured that come what may, your hard-earned savings will remain unaffected.

What is cancer insurance?

Cancer insurance is exactly what it sounds like. It is a kind of insurance that offers financial protection in case the policyholder is diagnosed with any of the cancers covered by the plan. This kind of insurance is specifically designed to offer financial benefits in case of cancer diagnoses. It's comprehensive and covers multiple stages of many different types of cancers. The exact kinds of cancers covered may vary from one plan to another, and from one insurer to the next. Before you buy a cancer insurance plan, make sure you read the terms and conditions involved, so you can get a better idea of the cancer types covered by the policy.

The ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan, for instance, is a comprehensive cancer insurance plan that covers all stages of the disease.

What are the benefits and features of the ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan?

ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan is a traditional health insurance plan that offers many beneficial features to the policyholder. Take a look at these features to get a better idea of how this cancer insurance plan can be of great help.

  • Comprehensive coverage

    One of the biggest concerns that people have when buying a cancer plan is the coverage. Understandably, many insurers may not cover advanced stages of cancer because of the higher risks involved. Alternatively, they may offer coverage for such major stages, but at a steep additional cost.

    With the Cancer Shield Plan, however, you can put these worries to rest. This policy covers all stages of cancer - both early stage and major stage. This kind of exhaustive coverage also comes at affordable rates.

  • High cover at an affordable premium

    Worried that cancer insurance may be too expensive for you? The Cancer Shield Plan from Aditya Birla Life Insurance can put your worries to rest, because it offers you a substantial cover at extremely affordable premiums. For instance, you can get a cancer insurance cover of Rs. 10 lakhs for a policy term of 20 years for a premium of just Rs. 120 per month.*

    *Scenario for female policyholder aged 21 years, purchasing a level sum assured plan with the Income Benefit option, with a regular premium payment term

    The premium may vary slightly based on your age, gender, policy term and amount of coverage, but the bottom line is that the Cancer Shield Plan is highly affordable. Want to know how much premium you may be charged?

    Check premium now
  • Payouts on diagnosis

    If the policyholder protected by the plan is diagnosed with any of the cancers covered by the plan, they receive the policy benefits guaranteed by the plan. Here's how the payouts are offered, based on the stage of the cancer diagnosis.

    • In case the cancer is of an early stage, you can claim 30% of the sum assured.
    • Later, in case of diagnosis of a major stage, you can claim the remaining 70%.
    • If the initial diagnosis itself reveals a major stage of cancer, you can claim 100% of the sum assured.
  • Choice of plan options

    The Cancer Shield Plan gives you two different plan options to choose from. Depending on the option you choose, the sum assured under your plan will either remain constant or increase over the policy term. The following plan options are available under this cancer insurance policy:

    • Option 1: Level sum assured:

      Here, the sum assured remains level or constant throughout the entire policy term. So, for instance, if the initial sum assured under the plan is Rs. 20 lakhs, it remains the same and does not change throughout the tenure of the policy.

    • Option 2: Increasing sum assured:

      Under this option, the sum assured increases by 10% on each policy renewal date. This occurs from the first policy anniversary to the tenth. Take a look at the table below to understand how this works.

      Say you purchase the policy at the age of 25. The initial sum assured is Rs. 30 lakhs. So, each year, for the first 10 years, the sum assured under the plan will increase by Rs. 3 lakhs (i.e. 10% of Rs. 30 lakhs).

      Policy anniversary (in years)

      Your age (in years)

      Sum assured



      Rs. 30 lakhs



      Rs. 33 lakhs



      Rs. 36 lakhs



      Rs. 39 lakhs



      Rs. 42 lakhs



      Rs. 45 lakhs



      Rs. 48 lakhs



      Rs. 51 lakhs



      Rs. 54 lakhs



      Rs. 57 lakhs



      Rs. 60 lakhs

      So, by choosing this plan option, the sum assured has effectively doubled in 10 years.

  • Income benefit

    In addition to the financial burden of treating the disease, a cancer diagnosis can also affect a person's livelihood. They may not be able to work a regular job due to the illness. And this could affect their family's sustenance. The optional income benefit offered by the Cancer Shield Plan can help you here.

    You can opt for the income benefit at the time of purchase. Under this option, a monthly income equal to 1% of the sum assured will be paid out in case of a major stage diagnosis. This income payout will continue for 5 policy years, even if the policy expires during that period.

    For example, say 30-year-old Sanjeev buys a Cancer Shield Plan. The plan has the following particulars.

    • Sum assured under the plan: Rs. 40 lakhs
    • Policy term: 30 years
    • Income benefit option: Chosen at the time of purchase

    So, the policy will expire when Sanjeev attains 60 years of age. Say at the age of 58, he is diagnosed with major stage lung cancer. Since he has opted for the income benefit, he will receive 1% of the sum assured monthly, for a period of 5 years from the diagnosis.

    In this case, he will receive Rs. 40,000 each month from the time of diagnosis - when he is 58 years old - till he is 63 years old. This payout will continue for the entire period even though the policy will expire when Sanjeev is 60 years old.

  • Premium waiver benefit

    A cancer diagnosis can cause loss of income temporarily or permanently, and this may make it tough for patients to pay their insurance premiums during these critical times. So, upon early stage diagnosis, the Cancer Shield Plan gives policyholders the benefit of premium waivers. Here are the key details of this benefit.

    • This benefit comes into effect when early stage cancers are diagnosed.
    • Premium payments will be waived off for a period of 5 years, or for the remaining policy term, whichever is lower.
    • This benefit will take effect from the next premium payment due date.
  • Premium guarantee

    The premium paid at the date of commencement of the policy continues to remain the same for next five years. However, after that period, the premium rates may be revised, provided the IRDAI offers prior approval.

    Also, in case there's any revision in the premiums charged, you will be informed about this at least 3 months before the relevant due date for the revised premium. And such revised premium rates will also be valid for a period of 5 years from the renewal date.

    So, effectively, once you have locked in a premium rate, you need not worry about any revisions for at least 5 years.

  • Tax benefits

    The Cancer Shield Plan is a health insurance plan, so it offers you tax benefits1 under section 80D of the Income Tax Act, 1961. The premiums you pay for your insurance are deductible from your total taxable income each financial year. You can claim this deduction whether you purchase for yourself, your spouse, or kids, or for your parents. Here is a summary of the deduction limits applicable under this section.


    Maximum amount of deduction allowed for policies taken for yourself, spouse or children

    Maximum amount of deduction allowed for policies taken for parents

    • You have purchased the policy for yourself (or your spouse or kids)
    • You (or your spouse) are below 60 years of age

    Rs. 25,000


    • You have purchased the policy for yourself (or your spouse or kids), and for your parent
    • You and your parent are both below 60 years of age

    Rs. 25,000

    Rs. 25,000

    • You have purchased the policy for yourself (or your spouse or kids)
    • You (or your spouse) are above 60 years of age

    Rs. 50,000


    • You have purchased the policy for yourself (or your spouse or kids), and for your parent
    • You and your parent are both above 60 years of age

    Rs. 50,000

    Rs. 50,000

    See how the ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan can be highly beneficial to you? If you're interested in purchasing this cover, simply click the link below to secure your future.

    Check eligibility criteria before buying ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan

    View Eligibility Criteria

How does cancer insurance work?

You've seen how cancer insurance can be beneficial, thanks to the many helpful features it offers. But how does cancer insurance work? The exact details will vary from one plan to another, of course. However, here's a general overview of the workings of a cancer insurance plan.

  • You purchase a cancer insurance plan for a specified policy term.
  • You choose any optional benefits it offers, like an income payout or an increasing sum assured.
  • Then, you need to pay the premiums due over the premium payment term.
  • In case you are diagnosed with cancer during the policy term, the insurer will pay out financial benefits based on the terms of the policy.
  • These payouts can be lump sum amounts, periodic payouts, or a combination of the two.
  • The stage of the cancer diagnosed will also affect the amount of payouts made.
  • The insurer may also waive off premiums for a predetermined period from the time of diagnosis.

To better understand how cancer insurance works, you'll need to take a look at an example or two. Let's take the case of the ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan to explore how a cancer insurance policy works.



Policyholder's gender


Policyholder's age at the time of purchase

30 years

Policy term chosen

20 years

Policyholder's age at the time of plan expiry

50 years

Premium payment term (regular pay)

20 years

Sum assured under the plan

Rs. 30 lakhs

Plan type and option chosen

Level sum assured with income benefit

Illustrative premium charged

Rs. 5,000 per annum

In this case, the policyholder will pay a premium of Rs. 5,000 per year for 20 years, till he attains 50 years of age.

Scenario 1:

Let us assume that in the 10th policy year, he is diagnosed with early stage cancer.



Policy year when he is diagnosed with early stage cancer

10th year

Policyholder's age at the time of diagnosis

40 years

Early stage policy benefit payout

(30% of the sum assured)

Rs. 9 lakhs

(30% of Rs. 30 lakhs)

Premium waiver benefit

The premiums are waived off for the next 5 years. So, the policyholder need not pay premiums from policy year 11 to policy year 15.

After this period, the policyholder must continue to pay the premium from policy year 16 till policy expiry.

Scenario 2:

Let us take the case of the same policyholder, with the same cancer insurance plan. Say in the 18th policy year, he is again diagnosed with cancer - this time, a major stage of the disease. In that case, here is how his insurance plan will be of help.



Policy year when he is diagnosed with major stage cancer

18th year

Policyholder's age at the time of diagnosis

48 years

Major stage policy benefit payout

(70% of the sum assured, since it is after a previous early stage diagnosis)

Rs. 21 lakhs

(70% of Rs. 30 lakhs)

Income payout benefit

The policyholder will receive a monthly income of Rs. 30,000 (1% of the sum assured), for the next 5 years. This income payout benefit will continue from policy year 19, for 5 years, even though the policy expires after the 20th year.

So, the policyholder will receive Rs. 30,000 each month from the time he is 49 years of age, till he is 53.


Why do you need cancer insurance?

If you already have a life insurance plan and a health insurance plan, you may rightly be wondering if a cancer insurance plan is even necessary for you. After all, when you are young and healthy, the chances of developing cancer seem like a remote possibility, right? That's understandable, of course.

But cancer does not discriminate across ages, genders, or income groups. In fact, young people are susceptible to several cancers like lymphoma, melanoma, breast cancer and even brain tumors. So, having a cancer insurance plan makes great financial sense.

There are also several other reasons to purchase this kind of a policy. Check them out for yourself.

  • Cancer treatment costs are on the rise

    It's not only the number of cases of cancer that are on the rise. The costs of cancer treatment are increasing too. As modern lifestyle habits increase the risk of getting cancer, it becomes essential to have a safety net to cushion the financial burden that comes with cancer treatment. A cancer insurance plan can be extremely helpful here. The financial benefits it offers can help meet the rising costs of cancer diagnosis, medicines and treatments.

  • Your financial backup may be insufficient

    Cancer is no longer just a disease of old age. Younger people are also becoming increasingly susceptible to the disease. And in case you are diagnosed with cancer before you have sufficiently saved up, your financial backup may not be enough. Fortunately, a cancer insurance plan can help you access healthcare facilities of the best quality even if you have not saved up enough.

  • It helps protect your other life goals

    Even if you do have a sufficient financial corpus saved up, cancer treatment could put a significant dent in your savings and set you back by several lakhs of rupees. And this, in turn, could impact your other life goals. You may have to wait longer to buy your dream house, or you may not be able to meet the costs of providing quality education for your children. A cancer insurance plan helps you avoid this pitfall and protects your life goals.

  • It compensates for loss of income

    People undergoing cancer treatment may need to take an extended break from their professional lives. Depending on the stage and the type of cancer, they may also find it tough to go back to work for a while after the treatment is complete. This could result in loss of income for the patient's family. Fortunately, a cancer insurance plan that offers income benefits can help tide over these tough times.

  • You may have a family history of cancer

    Some cancers, like colon cancer, prostate cancer and breast cancer are hereditary. A family history of these types of cancers may increase your risk of developing the disease later in life. So, it is always a smart idea to purchase a cancer insurance plan in these cases, since it helps you be financially prepared for any eventuality. You will have to disclose your family history in your proposal form, though. Make sure you do this, so your claims are not rejected.


What can the claim amount be used for?

The claim amount that you receive from your cancer insurance policy can be used in many different ways. While some of it may depend on the kind of payouts offered by the policy and the terms and conditions involved, broadly speaking, you can make use of the funds for the following needs.

  • Hospitalization costs

    A cancer diagnosis may require an extended stay at a hospital. This could result in steep room rent costs. You can make use of the payouts from your cancer insurance plan to meet these expenses.

  • Pre and post hospitalization costs

    In addition to the expenses related to hospitalization, cancer patients also have to bear medical costs before being admitted or after being discharged. This becomes a significant financial burden for patients. Fortunately, some cancer insurance plans cover these expenses as well.

  • Ambulance costs

    If your cancer insurance plan offers ambulance coverage, you can claim those benefits to pay for emergency ambulance transport. This can help reduce the burden of associated medical expenses related to cancer diagnosis and treatment.

  • Chemotherapy, radiation and other similar expenses

    Each session of chemotherapy or radiation may cost anywhere between Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 75,000 or higher. Cancer treatment involves multiple such sessions, meaning the cost could run into lakhs of rupees. You can use the claim amount to meet these heavy expenses.

  • Income replacement

    Most cancer insurance plans also offer an income benefit option. If you opt for this benefit, you can rely on the periodic payouts to help you and your family through these critical times, without any worry about loss of income.

Factors to consider while buying cancer insurance

So, you now know why cancer insurance is necessary, and how you can make use of the payouts. But before you go ahead and make your purchase, you need to be aware of the key factors to consider while choosing your cancer plan.

There are many alternatives available in the insurance market today, and to identify which plan is best for your needs, here's what you need to look into before you make a purchase decision.

  • List of network hospitals

    Insurance providers generally tie up with leading hospitals or hospital chains and enter into an agreement with them, so that these network hospitals can offer cashless treatments to people insured by the company. So, if you opt for treatment in a network hospital, your expenses will directly be settled by the insurer. Before you buy a cancer insurance plan, take a look at the list of network hospitals that partner with your insurer, so you can ensure that you have the best healthcare providers to choose from.

  • Nature of expenses covered

    Not all cancer plans cover the same expenses. Generally, the basic costs like hospitalization expenses and chemotherapy or radiation costs are covered by all cancer insurance plans. However, if you want a more comprehensive cover, you need to check if your cancer plan also covers other expenses like pre and post hospitalization costs, ambulance costs and diagnostic expenses. Keep in mind that the premium will also increase as the nature of coverage increases.

  • Travel cost during treatment

    In some cases, you may have to travel to a different city or another state to get the best treatment for the disease. This may be particularly true in case of advanced stages of cancer, or in case of some of the rarer types of cancer. Travel may also be necessary if you reside in a place that does not have adequate medical facilities. In such cases, non-medical costs like travel and lodging may be steep. Check if your insurance plan has a provision covering for these expenses if you think you may need it.

  • Co-pays and deductibles

    Co-pays and deductibles are out of pocket expenses that you need to bear, before your insurer steps in and compensates you for the rest of the costs. Not all cancer insurance plans come with a co-pay or a deductible clause. Similarly, the co-pays or deductibles for different costs may vary within the same plan. So, before you make a purchase, check if the cancer insurance plans you are looking at require you to pay out of pocket first. The upside for this is the premiums for such plans tend to be lower.

  • Policy premium waiver during treatment

    As you've seen in an example earlier, most cancer plans give policyholders the benefit of a premium waiver in case of a diagnosis. This minimizes the financial burden that the policyholder faces during cancer treatment. Since this is such a beneficial feature, look into the terms and conditions of the policy you are planning to buy and check if it offers a waiver of premium benefit. If it does, take some time to understand the details of this feature, so you know the period over which it's valid, and the conditions it comes with.

  • Insurer's claim settlement ratio

    The claim settlement ratio (CSR) tells you how efficient the insurance provider is at settling the claims they receive. It is simply the ratio of the total claims settled during a year to the total claims received by the insurer. It tells you the percentage of claims the insurance provider has settled. For instance, Aditya Birla Life Insurance recorded a high CSR of 98.04% in FY 2019-2020. As you may have figured out, the higher the CSR is, the better the chances are of your claim being settled. So, look into this aspect before you make a purchase decision.

  • Insurer's solvency ratio

    The solvency ratio tells you how well a company manages its cash flow. In the case of an insurance company, this metric is relevant because it gives you a better idea of how likely it is that your insurer will settle your claims. A high solvency ratio is good, since it reflects on the company's efficient cash management processes. On the other hand, a lower solvency ratio may indicate that the insurer is having a cash crunch, making claim settlement harder. So, look into the solvency ratio when you are choosing an insurance provider.

  • No claim bonus

    A no claim bonus (NCB) is an additional bonus that policyholders receive for not raising any claim during a policy year. Some health insurance plans offer this additional benefit in exchange for a nominal extra premium. So, if you think that your risk for developing cancer is low, you can take advantage of this no claim bonus option and purchase it along with your cancer insurance policy. That way, for every year that goes by without any claim raised, you will financially benefit from your policy.

  • Waiting period

    Cancer insurance plans typically come with a waiting period. The benefits under the policy come into effect only after this period has passed. For example, in the case of the ABSLI Cancer Shield Plan, the waiting period is 180 days from the date of the policy's commencement. So, in case a policyholder is diagnosed with cancer before 180 days have passed, the coverage under the plan will not come into effect. You need to be aware of the waiting period clause before you purchase a policy.

  • The premium rates for the policy

    And last, but certainly not the least - you need to factor in the premium that you will be charged. While the exact amount quoted will vary from one insured person to the next, there are some key factors that influence the premium rates for your plan, such as:

    • Your age
    • The sum assured chosen
    • The premium payment mode
    • The plan option chosen
    • The policy term
    • Any family history of cancer
    • Your lifestyle habits

So, when you are out shopping for a cancer insurance plan, ensure that you check out these factors and verify if you are capable of paying up the premium charged as and when it is due. Missing a premium payment can lead to policy lapse, and that means you could lose all the benefits offered by your cancer insurance policy.

Since the premium rates depend on a variety of factors as seen above, the exact amount of premium charged will vary from one person to another. If you're interested in checking out how much your premium rates may be, click the button below to find out more.


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