Complete Guide To Health Insurance Cancer Cover

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Private Health Insurance is an insurance policy which provides private medical care in exchange for monthly premiums.

You’ll receive treatment in top-notch facilities without any of the waiting times associated with the NHS for any acute conditions you develop after the policy goes live.

Private Health Insurance offers access to cutting edge drugs, treatments and procedures that may not yet be available on the NHS due to cost.

This can be particularly valuable when it comes to cancer care, where the drugs and therapies involved are often very expensive and may therefore not always be licensed for use by the NHS for this reason.

Many policies also provide you with access to a second medical opinion service, putting some of the world’s best oncologists at your disposal to share their expertise regarding your treatment.

What Does Private Health Insurance Cover?

Private Medical Insurance is designed to cover the treatment of acute health conditions.

There’s a difference between acute conditions, which are short-term conditions that can be cured or alleviated with medical care, and chronic conditions, which are long-term conditions that are only able to be managed rather than cured.

Acute conditions include joint pain brought on by the need for a joint replacement – once you’ve had the surgical procedure to replace the joint, the condition is alleviated. Chronic conditions, on the other hand, include asthma and diabetes, which cannot be cured and can only be managed going forward.

Private Health Insurance is only designed to intervene to treat acute conditions. For chronic conditions, you’ll still need to use the NHS.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Cover

Medical treatment is split broadly into two categories: inpatient care, which requires a hospital bed, either overnight or just for the day as a day-patient, and outpatient care, where no bed is needed at all.

Inpatient treatment is most commonly related to surgical procedures – for example a joint replacement or other surgery. Outpatient care largely involves diagnostic tests and scans, as well as other procedures which don’t need a hospital bed.

All policies cover inpatient treatment as standard. However, to get most aspects of outpatient cover you’ll need to add this to the policy separately for an additional cost.

With outpatient cover you can either opt for it to be paid in full or paid up to a set limit, say £1,000 per year.

Private Health Insurance Cancer Care

Taking out Health Insurance provides you with access to cutting-edge cancer treatment, including drugs and procedures that may not be available on the NHS because they don’t meet cost guidelines.

Other benefits of private cancer care can include:

  • Choice of having chemotherapy at home rather than in a clinical setting
  • Cover for the cost of wigs and prostheses that are required as a result of cancer treatment / surgery
  • Money to pay for scalp cooling, to reduce hair loss from chemotherapy and related cancer treatments
  • Donations to a hospice should you need to stay in one to receive end of life care
  • Access to home nursing for a certain number of days, where a dedicated private nurse will come to your home to check up on you during your treatment
  • Access to counselling for you and your family post-diagnosis to help you cope with the news
  • Direct access to specialists, potentially allowing you to skip a GP referral and go straight to diagnostic testing if you’re having symptoms of cancer.

Having Private Health Insurance doesn’t mean you can never receive treatment from the NHS – it’s designed to work in tandem with the NHS rather than replacing it.

In fact, many policies have an NHS benefit built in that means you’ll receive a cash payout if you choose to take treatment in an NHS hospital rather than using your Private Health Insurance.

This is typically in the form of a benefit of a certain sum per night up to a fixed number of nights per year, but you can also receive a payout if you take outpatient treatment, such as chemotherapy, on the NHS as well.

Can I Get Health Insurance With Cancer?

If you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer and you’re looking for Health Insurance to cover your treatment, you may have a more difficult time.

This is because few policies cover pre-existing conditions, so you’re likely to face an exclusion for cancer or an outright decline to cover you until you’ve recovered and been in remission for at least 5 years.

Your health is taken into account when pricing policies, so even after this 5 years have gone by you’ll likely pay more if you’ve suffered from cancer in the past to reflect the greater risk to the insurer you represent.

You may also face higher premiums if you have a family history of certain types of cancer with proven genetic links, such as breast, ovarian and bowel cancer.

Joe Toft, health & wellbeing expert at Drewberry

If can be more difficult to get cover if you have pre-existing medical conditions.

If you need some help to better understand your options please do not hesitate to pop us a call on 02074425880 or email

Joseph Toft
Health & Wellbeing Expert at Drewberry

Compare UK Health Insurance Cancer Cover

Below are the top five UK Health Insurance providers highlighting their cancer coverage.

Each provider broadly offers the same coverage for cancer thanks to stiff competition in this area, although some have slightly different minor points that may mean you want to consider one provider over another.

Most insurers include cancer cover as part of their ‘core’ or inpatient cover, even if you only ever need treatment that doesn’t require an overnight hospital stay. This means you don’t typically have to pay extra for cancer cover as you do for outpatient care.

This is usually the case even if you don’t have outpatient care added to the policy, allowing you to receive outpatient radiotherapy or chemotherapy, for example, because it’s covered as part of core cover even if you don’t select this option from the start.


  • 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 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 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
*Not available with standard outpatient option

Getting Health Insurance Advice

While most Health Insurance covers cancer, there are some differences between the policies that you might want to consider when taking out Private Medical Insurance.

Our expert advisers compare health insurance policies on a wide range of factors, including cancer coverage. So if this is particularly important to you, it’s worth getting advice to ensure you’re getting the best policy for your requirements.

Why Speak to Us…

We started Drewberry™ because we were tired of being treated like a number.

We all deserve a first class service when it comes to issues as important as protecting our health. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to talk to us.

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  • Claims support when you need it most.
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  • Claims support when you need it most.

If it is all getting a little confusing and you want to discuss your needs with one of our expert advisers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Pop us a call on 02074425880 or alternatively you can drop us a line on

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