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Can Cancer Survivors Donate Blood?

robinh's picture
Posts: 23
Joined: Jun 2001

I read somewhere that if you've had cancer that you can't give blood. Does anyone know if that is the case? Is it just certain types or all cancers?

Posts: 682
Joined: Feb 2001

Hi Robin,

I just read something on that recently and was surprised to read that if you've been cancer -free 5 years, you can give blood. This makes no sense to me since we have this chemotherapy to take care of MOST of the cancer cells which MIGHT be circulating in our bloodstream.

Does it make sense to you? I don't think I'd want blood from someone who had cancer - of course, you could get blood from someone who had cancer and just did not know.

Were you thinking of giving blood?


Posts: 706
Joined: Jul 2001

Hi Robin:

I saw my medical oncologist yesterday and I asked her the same question. She said that her response would be no but to check with
the American Red Cross just to be absolutely certain. There's a questionnarie one must fill out before donating but I can't recall
if it asks about cancer.

I usually donate twice a year but haven't in
the past year due to my diagnosis and treatment. It's something I always felt good
about and was hoping I could continue donating. My doctor said that if there are even a few cancer cells circulating in your blood and you donate, the chance exists that
you can pass on those cells. I guess that makes sense but it's a bit of a disappointment to me.

I think the reasoning is probably that once
you've definitely had cancer, then the chance
of your body harboring cancer cells is higher
than it would be for the average population?
Also, it can, according to my doctors, take
up to a year before our bodies completely
recover from the effects of the chemo and if
our counts are still a bit low, then we need
all the blood we have for our bodies to function properly. My own counts are back to
normal, so I guess that theory doesn't apply to all of us, all the time.

I plan to contact the Red Cross and get specifics about it tomorrow and will post here what they tell me. If I positively can no longer donate, then I need to let them know as they keep sending me reminders in the mail.

I also asked about getting a flu shot and was
told that it's a good idea. So no restrictions there.

Hope you're feeling well!

Love, light and laughter,

Posts: 173
Joined: Mar 2001


I haven't donated blood in a few years, so I don't know if the restrictions have changed. I tried to donate blood 5 years after I had been cancer free and they called me and told me they were throwing my blood away, because the new rules say you have to be cancer free for 10 years with breast cancer. Now this was a local blood bank in Richmond, VA. It was a good thing they disposed of my blood, since I did have a recurrence after that. I did not have chemo and was not on any medication the first time. The question concerning cancer is on the questionnaire. Check with them before donating and double check, since I got different answers the last time I donated.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

God Bless,

Posts: 682
Joined: Feb 2001

Found this on the web:

"Who can never donate? Those who are HIV positive or have AIDS; those with high-risk behavior associated with AIDS; male homosexuals who have had sex since 1977; those who have ever used a needle, even once, to take illegal drugs or steroids; those who have taken clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia; those who have been given money or drugs for sex since 1977; those who were born in, or have lived for more than a year in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Niger or Nigeria since 1977; or anyone who has had sex with anyone who was born or lived in any of these countries since 1977; those who had hepatitis after the age of 11; and those who have cancer or who have ever received chemotherapy. Exceptions are healed skin cancer; those who have been cancer-free for five years; were treated with radiation therapy or surgery (no chemo), and did not have breast cancer or leukemia or lymphoma.

There are many temporary deferrals, including pregnancy (six weeks after delivery); tattoo/skin piercing(12 months); blood transfusion (12 months); and heart attack or heart disease (requires letter from approved physician that you're medically stable).

The American Red Cross Web site describes the eligibility guidelines in greater detail:


Contact the American Red Cross to donate blood: 1-800-GIVE-LIFE; to donate money, call 1-800-HELP-NOW. "

October 1, 2001

pamtriggs's picture
Posts: 407
Joined: Sep 2000

I don't know about the US but in New Zealand we can after 5 years free. BUT I started to donate again after 8 years free & then the cancer came back after 20 years but it was back at least a year before it was diagnosed so I gave blood 3 times in that period. Also it must have been in my blood all that time just waiting to become aggresive again. Now I worry about the people who may have had my blood in that time. I found this hard to live with so I contacted the Blood service & they were not too concerned. They said the chances of giving cancer to a recipient was very very low & in most cases the blod was turned into plasma after a few weeks if it is not used as whole blood & in my case being B+ it probably was as the demand for B+ blood is quite low in NZ & they get a lot donated. Once it is plasma the chances of passing on cancer are even lower. Still I feel uncomfortable with having donated albeit unknowingly & would advise those who are donors not to return to it after cancer treatment & 5 years as you never know. I hope if I have given someone BC with my blood that they can forgive me.

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