Skip to main content

We’ve updated our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. By using this site, you agree to these terms.

Donating blood is an easy way to help others achieve better health. And most cancer survivors can be donors, depending on your cancer type and treatment history.

Congratulations, you’ve made it through your cancer journey. Now you want to give back to the healthcare community that helped you. But can cancer survivors donate blood?

Gustaaf de Ridder, MD, a clinical anatomic pathologist at Geisinger, says for most cancer survivors, the answer is a resounding yes! However, it depends on the type of cancer you had and your treatment history.

“Many cancer patients require blood transfusions, so giving blood is a great way to celebrate your success and pay it forward,” he says. “Cancer patients use nearly 25% of the blood supply, so it’s no surprise cancer survivors want to donate blood and give back to help others in need.”

Eligibility criteria for blood donation

Before rolling up your sleeve to donate blood and blood products, such as platelets and plasma, you have to meet certain eligibility criteria to keep you and the recipient safe. 

Cancer survivors who are eligible to donate blood and blood products:

  • You had a solid tumor cancer and have been in cancer remission for at least 12 months. This means there is no evidence of cancer in your body, you completed all necessary treatments like chemotherapy or radiation and fully recovered from the side effects.
  • You had a precancerous lesion that’s been treated successfully.
  • You had a low-risk cancer, such as squamous or basal cell skin cancer, that’s been completely removed and you’re healed from surgery.

“Some cancer survivors who want to donate blood may worry that they might give cancer to the person receiving their blood,” says Dr. de Ridder. “Fortunately, there have been no reports of cancer spreading to another person through blood transfusions, so there’s no need for concern.”

Cancer survivors who are not eligible to donate blood and blood products:

  • You’re being treated for cancer or in active cancer treatment.
  • You’re taking medications to manage or suppress cancer.
  • Your cancer has spread, or you have a cancer recurrence following remission. 
  • You had Kaposi sarcoma.
  • You had a blood cancer, such as leukemia, lymphoma (including Hodgkin’s disease) or multiple myeloma.

“Even if you’ve been successfully treated for these types of blood cancer, unfortunately, you won’t ever be able to donate blood or blood products,” says Dr. de Ridder. “It’s not currently considered safe to the blood recipient.” 

Still unsure if you can donate blood as a cancer survivor? Reach out to your provider or the blood donation center to discuss your specific situation. 

Benefits and risks of blood donation for cancer survivors

Donating blood is a lifesaving gift. In fact, every whole blood donation may touch three lives, according to the American Red Cross

But cancer survivors in particular should first consult their provider and consider the potential benefits and risks of blood donation to make sure it’s the best way to give back.

Benefits of donating blood as a cancer survivor

  • Free health checkup. Things like blood pressure and hemoglobin will be examined before your blood draw to be sure you’re healthy. If they point to a potential hidden health issue, you can be treated for it earlier.
  • Sense of belonging. People who donate blood feel more connected to their community and have an increased sense of well-being through doing a selfless act.

Risks of donating blood as a cancer survivor

  • Iron deficiency. Frequent blood donation may lead to lower iron — a vital mineral responsible for transporting oxygen throughout your body. Fortunately, it’s easy to manage through diet, supplements and limiting how often you donate blood. 

Can cancer survivors donate tissue and organs, too?

Having cancer also doesn’t mean you can’t be an organ or tissue donor. Many of the same eligibility criteria for blood donation also apply to organ donation. 

Whether your organs can be used depend on:

  • The type of cancer you had. Just like blood donation criteria, blood cancers typically disqualify a person for organ donation. 
  • If the cancer was active and spread, or metastasized.
  • The health of your organs, which can be negatively impacted by cancer treatment.

Any potential donor goes through a sophisticated screening process to check for medical conditions, including cancer, at the time of death and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Even if you can’t donate organs, you might still be able to donate tissue, such as skin, tendons, corneas, bones or veins. 

“Giving blood is an easy and effective way to pay it forward and help save a life,” says Dr. de Ridder. “But no matter what, getting involved and donating to the cancer community in any capacity can make a meaningful difference in the lives of cancer survivors and patients.”

Next steps: 

Learn about cancer care at Geisinger
What does it mean to be in remission?
Everything you need to know about donating a kidney

Content from General Links with modal content