General Question

ChocolateCoveredStarfish's avatar

Can cancer survivors donate blood?

Asked by ChocolateCoveredStarfish (222points) June 22nd, 2011

I asked a question the other day about my eligibility to donate bone marrow… turns out I am not allowed because of the certain cancer I had. So now I’m wondering if I can donate blood instead. I have been to a donor clinic before but that was when I weighed 98 lbs and for obvious reasons, couldn’t donate. Now I weigh 115 lbs and have been in remission from cancer for over 10 years. Also, I did not have a blood cancer. The cancer I had was in my kidney, liver, lungs and lymph nodes. Does anyone know if I’d be able to become a blood donor?

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28 Answers

blueiiznh's avatar

It varies and depends on the organization.

(Prior to July 21, 2003, the Red Cross’s guidelines prohibited blood donations from any cancer patients treated with chemotherapy, hormone therapy or immunotherapy, even if they were more than five years past the end of treatment. Many blood donation centers continue to adhere to the former guidelines. For example, Dana Farber will not accept blood donations from cancer survivors, regardless of the treatment methodology and the number of years since the end of treatment.)

In the UK, blood donations are not accepted from cancer survivors, no matter how many years have passed since the end of treatment.

Some info

Stinley's avatar

You should be allowed to donate since it was not a blood cancer and has been in remission for that length of time. When you give blood in the UK you have to fill out a form with your medical history and the staff will assess your suitability at that point. The rules may be different elsewhere. Phoning them before making a special trip or popping in to the centre if you are passing would give you the right information for your circumstances. The staff are usually very lovely and helpful.

JilltheTooth's avatar

Really, you have to contact your local blood center, they’re the only ones who can tell you for sure.

Mariah's avatar

This page says cancer survivors aren’t banned for life, except blood cancers. But this is for America. I think you’ll only be able to get a reliable answer for your area by doing like @JilltheTooth suggests.

ChocolateCoveredStarfish's avatar

Yes, I just hoped I could get the answer here.. the blood clinic closest to me is pretty far, and I don’t want to make the trip there only to turn around and come home. Whenever I call the place the line is always busy. But I have the feeling I can donate blood, so we’ll see what happens.

Stinley's avatar

Do they have a website you could look at or email them? Often there is a lot of FAQ type info on the site – although I appreciate that this is a RAQ (rarely asked question)!

JLeslie's avatar

I hate to discourage people from donating blood, because it is such a miraculous gift, but generally I think women should not give blood unless they have their iron checked. So many women who menstruate are low in iron, and it weakens them in more than one way. I have to take very large doses of iron just to get into the normal range, I never give blood. I would as a direct donation to save a persons life in a specific situation, but otherwise I truly believe it is up to the men. Men many times run very high in iron, which is dangerous, and blood letting is healthy for them.

I just point this out because if you are low in iron it is not healthy for you to give anyway. I think it is wonderful you want to help others, I don’t mean to discourage you at all, but I want you to be safe also. With your history keeping yourself as strong as possible, strong immune system, is important.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@JLeslie : Blood donation centers (in the States, anyway) automatically check your hematocrit to make sure you’re not iron poor. I’ve occasionally been rejected for low iron. They don’t want anyone donating who is even a bit at risk.

meiosis's avatar

There isn’t a blanket ban on cancer survicors in the UK giving blood, but they would have to be sure that your donation would both be safe for you and for any recipient. More details on eligibility can be found here

@JLeslie In the UK, they test iron levels before every donation, and will not allow you to proceed if you’re anaemic.

JLeslie's avatar

Ok, good, I am glad they check. I once asked on another blood donation question and I don’t think I got an answer, or maybe I am just mistaken and my memory is bad. It seemed to me they would check. I know as a standard rule I will be low, I would never bother to even try to sign up to give blood. Maybe when I am 55 I will be able to start donating. If the OP knows she is low also, she won’t have to worry about this question was my basic point.

JLeslie's avatar

@ChocolateCoveredStarfish I have a question, would you want to receive blood from someone who had had cancer? Honestly, I prefer they don’t accept your blood. I guess at any moment someone donating blood might have a cancer they don’t know about, but if we can cut down on the chances of something bad happening, I prefer to err on the side of caution.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I can’t speak for @ChocolateCoveredStarfish , but personally I would much rather receive blood from someone the blood center deemed safe than go without. Badly wounded in a car accident? Please save my life now, rather than not because there isn’t enough. There are so many ways to have cancer that blood donation from someone who is years ago cured is such a tiny possibility.

ChocolateCoveredStarfish's avatar

@JLeslie, That’s a good question and I honestly don’t know how to answer it.. I’ve been in remission and off chemotherapy and radiation since 1997 and I’ve since been given NED status. I just don’t see how my blood is any different. I would think that if cancerous cells in the bloodstream were transfused to someone else’s, their immune system would kill them off… but I could be wrong? I had a very bad prognosis and wasn’t expected to live, and the fact that I’m still here today combined with really bad survival guilt makes me want to help others who are in the same situation that I was once in. Knowing that I can’t really sucks!!

JilltheTooth's avatar

@ChocolateCoveredStarfish : Oh, but you can! Maybe not by giving blood, but when I was going through chemo a woman who had survived an “absolutely you will die” prognosis 10 years earlier would come in and chat with us sometimes. She didn’t lecture, but just talked about it. I was always delighted to see her, she was a huge beacon of hope for those of us sitting in the damned Barcaloungers having toxic waste dripping into our persons. I think someone like you, so young, with your whole life to look forward to, could be an inspiration at a children’s oncology ward or something like that.

ChocolateCoveredStarfish's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’ve always been interested in doing something like that, like a volunteer position. But I don’t know how to get started. I was treated at Sick Kids in Toronto which is kind of far from me, but the closest children’s hospital. The hospital by my house doesn’t have pediatrics. :/

JLeslie's avatar

@ChocolateCoveredStarfish But you can help adults.

chyna's avatar

Just to add my two cents, I’ve always been checked for my iron before I gave blood. Three out of four times, it was always low and I wasn’t allowed to donate. After trying many times and not being able to, I gave up trying.
@ChocolateCoveredStarfish As @JilltheTooth said, I would be happy to have your blood if I needed it and the donor center deemed it clean.
Kudos for being such a caring person.

faye's avatar

@ChocolateCoveredStarfish not an answer but please don’t feel guilty for being alive, don’t waste a minute feeling that.

majorrich's avatar

I am not allowed to give blood for now as it hasn’t been long enough since my chemotherapy and my current drug regimen. And it’s killing them because I am O neg.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@majorrich : Me, too. Makes us super special!!! (So’s KatawaGrey, by the way…anybody need some?)

Bellatrix's avatar

In Australia, we are not allowed to give blood if we had residency in the UK between 1980 and 1996 because of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease [vCJD] risk to those who receive the blood. I think the regulation is right, but it always makes me feel a bit sad I can’t donate when I hear how low our blood stocks are. At the moment because it is flu season here, our stocks are very, very low apparently.

So I feel your pain @ChocolateCoveredStarfish. I would love to give blood and I can’t either. I encourage my children (born here and never been to the UK) to donate.

This is what the Australian Red Cross regulations are in terms of people who have had cancer.

Cancer – I had cancer. Can I donate?

In most cases, the Blood Service accepts people who remain free of cancer five years after the completion of treatment. The five year deferral is to protect the donor’s health by ensuring as far as possible that the cancer is gone and will not recur. Five years is the period most often used by cancer doctors to define a presumed cure.

However, people with a history of cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma that involve the blood production system directly, are permanently excluded from donating for the benefit of their own health.

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Moegitto's avatar

They turn you down if your a cancer survivor? They let us diabetics donate blood, I wonder why not someone who survived cancer 5 years ago?

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Moegitto : Depends on the cancer, depends on the timing. I’m eligible to donate, I was treated in 1999.

Moegitto's avatar

@JilltheTooth I’m not too familiar with the different types of cancers. I thought they were from tumors and such?

JilltheTooth's avatar

Wow, the topic is pretty vast. There are different kinds of tumors, in different kinds of places, and it would be best for your knowledge base if you did a little research either through Wikipedia or maybe the American Cancer Society to understand it better. Suffice to say, that the type I had was isolated to one area, and was slow growing and was eradicated by chemo and radiation. Many are much more aggressive. Beyond saying that, I leave you to your research, or maybe you could ask a question about it here? There may be Jellies who are oncologists who could answer more comprehensively than I.

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