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How will emerging therapies change the way benign brain tumours are covered in critical illness?

How will emerging therapies change the way benign brain tumours are covered in critical illness?

Today is “wear a hat day”, a day dedicated to raising awareness of all types of brain tumours in aid of Brain Tumour Research. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease. Brain Tumour Research aims to change this through campaigning and fundraising. To support this very worthy cause, we asked our doctors take a look at how brain tumours (and in particular benign brain tumours) are covered within critical illness plans, what the future for the treatment of the condition is and how this might impact critical illness plans.


What is a benign brain tumour?

“A benign brain tumour is a non-cancerous growth within the brain, cranial nerves, or meninges (the layers covering the brain), situated inside the skull. Unlike malignant (cancerous) tumours, which can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body, benign tumours generally grow more slowly and remain localised. Despite being non-cancerous, they can still pose significant health risks depending on their size and location.

Interestingly, non-malignant tumours constitute about two-thirds of all primary brain tumours. Meningioma, a type of benign tumour, represents over a quarter of all brain tumours and more than half of all benign cases. However, pituitary gland tumours, despite accounting for around 25% of benign brain tumours, are typically addressed separately by insurers in a specific, alternative wording. Therefore, the vast majority of claims for benign brain tumours will be for meningioma

Meningioma Explained

Meningiomas are more prevalent in women and usually affect individuals over the age of 35. These slow-growing tumours can cause issues by compressing surrounding brain tissue, leading to symptoms such as headaches, vision problems, and seizures.”

Protection Guru's Panel of Doctors

How are benign brain tumours covered in critical illness plans?

“Insurance policies often distinguish themselves by how they approach treatment coverage. While all policies generally cover symptomatic benign brain tumours, an increasing number of meningiomas are discovered incidentally during brain scans for unrelated reasons. There are three primary treatment options:

  1. Active Surveillance: Employed for very slow-growing meningiomas, with regular MRI scans to determine if more aggressive treatment becomes necessary.
  2. Surgery: Often the definitive treatment, surgery aims to remove the tumour completely.
  3. Radiotherapy: An evolving treatment option for smaller meningiomas, particularly those under 3 cm. Radiotherapy can be an adjunct to surgery or a standalone treatment, with types of radiotherapy including stereotactic radiosurgery and stereotactic radiotherapy—terms reflecting the treatment’s precision and dosage schedule.

The Evolving Landscape of Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy is a broad term encompassing various techniques. Stereotactic radiosurgery delivers a high dose of radiation to a small area in a single session, while stereotactic radiotherapy spreads the treatment over multiple sessions. These precise treatments minimise damage to surrounding tissues, but availability can still be restricted in the NHS.

Emerging radiotherapies, such as proton therapy, offer new hope but are also currently limited by availability. The NHS is striving to incorporate these novel treatments, acknowledging the need to expand infrastructure to support them.”

Protection Guru's Panel of Doctors

What does this mean for critical illness plans in the future?

“As we peer into the future of critical illness insurance, particularly regarding benign brain tumours like meningiomas, it becomes clear that policies which specify coverage for radiotherapy—not just stereotactic radiosurgery—will offer a more attractive proposition to policyholders. This anticipation is grounded in the increasing prevalence of MRI scans, which are likely to detect smaller meningiomas more frequently. These smaller tumours are prime candidates for active surveillance or high-precision radiotherapy, a treatment that offers targeted intervention without the need for invasive surgery.

The medical community is witnessing the introduction of newer, more advanced treatment options that promise to reshape the standard of care for patients with benign brain tumours. As these technologies become more widespread, the limitation to stereotactic radiosurgery in insurance policies could result in unnecessarily restrictive coverage for policyholders. By embracing a broader definition of radiotherapy, insurers can ensure their policies remain responsive to advancements in medical treatment, thereby providing comprehensive coverage that reflects the latest in medical innovation.

This broader coverage is not just about keeping pace with medical advancements; it’s about anticipating the needs of policyholders as diagnostic techniques improve and more treatment options become available. Ensuring that insurance policies evolve in tandem with these advancements will be crucial for insurers aiming to provide the most attractive and effective coverage options in the years to come.”

Protection Guru's Panel of Doctors

About The Author

Adam Higgs

Adam leads Protection Guru's detailed protection research and benchmarking of both product and operation features provided by insurers and has a vast knowledge of the protection market. He has been instrumental in building the protection comparison service Quality Analyser and maintaining the data to enable adviser to quickly and easily compare protection products based on qualitative measures. He also works with adviser firms to help in panel reviews and with insurers to help them understand the shape of the market, their strengths and the areas that could be improved in their products. In his spare time and when not spending time with his wife and two children, Adam is a keen Arsenal fan and enjoys hacking his way around a golf course.

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