Can Cancer Patients Donate Blood?

Learn more about what makes cancer patients eligible for blood donation

Donating blood is such a simple thing to do and it makes a great impact on the lives of others. It is no wonder then that there are many questions regarding blood donation, especially when it comes to cancer patients. One of the most frequently asked questions goes something like this:

"I would like to donate my blood, but was treated for lung cancer three years ago. Can people with cancer donate blood?"

This article discusses blood donation guidelines for people with cancer and cancer survivors.

Nurse taking blood from patient in hospital
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Donating Blood If You Have Cancer

There is not a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer to whether cancer patients can donate blood. Many people who have been treated for cancer are eligible to donate blood, provided they fall within certain guidelines. Eligibility guidelines vary among organizations.

The American Red Cross is the largest blood organization in the world and its eligibility guidelines have set the standard for other blood organizations. Overall, blood bank guidelines and safety measures are regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Eligibility Guidelines for The American Red Cross

Typically blood donations are allowed as often as every 56 if you are in good health. The American Red Cross does allow some people with a history of cancer to donate blood.

Eligibility to donate blood generally depends on the kind of cancer you had, how long it has been since treatment, and how successful your treatment was. The donation center staff will review your health history and help you understand if you can be a donor.

The American Red Cross does note that those treated for low-risk in-situ carcinomas like basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinoma (two types of skin cancers) do not need to wait 12 months after treatment before donating. Women who have had a precancerous cervical condition can donate provided their cancer was successfully treated.

There are other conditions and factors that affect donor eligibility. Read the Red Cross's list of medical conditions that may affect your donor status.

When Blood Donation is Not Allowed

According to the American Cancer Society, you are not allowed to donate blood if:

  • You are currently being treated for cancer
  • Your cancer is spreading or has returned (recurrence)
  • You have ever been diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukemia or lymphoma including Hodgkin's disease
  • You have ever been diagnosed with Kaposi sarcoma (a cancer of the skin and other soft tissue)

Tips When Donating Blood

When you go to a blood donation center, be as thorough as possible about your health history when you give blood. A person called a blood historian will record all of your information before you are accepted to give blood. You should tell the blood historian how your cancer was treated and when your last treatment was completed.

If there are no issues, you will usually be allowed to donate blood the same day. If there are issues, your case may need to be reviewed by a physician at the donor center before you can donate. There is no fee to have your blood reviewed at the American Red Cross.

If you have any questions prior to donating, you can call your local Red Cross or ask your oncologist.

Summary

Blood donation is a life-saving gift. Donor eligibility after cancer treatment varies. Generally, it must be at least 12 months since your last cancer treatment before you may be considered as a donor. Speak with your healthcare team or local blood donation center to understand if it is safe for you to donate blood.

A Word from Verywell

Do not feel discouraged if you find that you are not eligible to donate blood. You can always help people facing emergencies by volunteering your time to organize blood drives. You can also consider making a financial donation to support blood donation services that ensure ongoing blood supplies and humanitarian support to families in need.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can breast cancer patients donate blood?

    According to American Red Cross guidelines, blood donation is not permitted while undergoing active cancer treatment. You must wait 12 months from the time of your last treatment and you must have no signs of recurrence. The staff at the blood donation center will review your history and let you know if you can donate.

  • Can cancer patients donate organs?

    If you are interested in being an organ donor, make sure you have signed up on the registry in your area. In many states, your desire to donate your organs will be listed on your driver's license. The organ donation organization near you will consider your health condition at the time of death to determine if you can be a donor.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Yang H, Lee J, Seed CR, Keller AJ. Can blood tranfusion transmit cancer? A literature review. Transfus Med Rev. 2010;24(3):235-43. doi:10.1016/j.tmrv.2010.03.005

  2. American Red Cross. Requirements by donation type.

  3. American Red Cross. Eligibility criteria: Cancer.

  4. American Cancer Society. Can I donate blood if I'm a cancer survivor?

  5. UNOS.org Frequently asked questions.