Blood Donation and Cancer

Here at The Blood Connection, we get a lot of questions about blood donation and how it relates to cancer. This isn’t surprising, considering that approximately 39.5% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Cancer impacts almost every American in one way or another — whether they are personally diagnosed or have a close friend or family member who receives a diagnosis. 

With this in mind, let’s answer some of the most common questions regarding cancer patients, cancer survivors, and blood donation. 

Can cancer patients give blood?

The short answer here is no, cancer patients cannot give blood until they’re in remission, no matter what type of cancer it is. Why? This precaution is for the safety of both cancer patients and potential blood recipients. Although the chance is very low, it is possible that a blood transfusion recipient with a weakened immune system might not be able to fight off the cancer cells (if present) in the blood they receive. Because of this possibility, cancer patients are not eligible to donate blood — but they may be able to in the future when they are in remission.

Can cancer survivors donate blood?

Yes! Most cancer survivors are eligible to donate blood. If the cancer has been successfully treated and it has been 12+ months since the last treatment was completed, cancer survivors can be blood donors. It’s important to note, however, this waiting period isn’t required for all cancer survivors. Those who have had lower-risk cancers such as squamous or basal cell cancers can donate if the cancer has been removed and healed completely — no 12-month waiting period is required. 

Blood Transfusions in Cancer Treatment

Blood donations play a critical role in the treatment and recovery of cancer patients. In fact, 25% of the nation’s blood supply goes to help cancer patients for  life-saving treatments. Many cancer patients, especially those undergoing chemotherapy, need regular blood transfusions to lessen the unpleasant side effects of treatments and improve their quality of life. 

Since cancers of the blood affect blood production the most, patients with these cancers are most in need of blood transfusions. Transfusions reduce the risk of complications that can come with a low cell count, and they also give the body healthy blood cells that it’s not producing on its own. 

Although nearly 1.9 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and many of these patients will need a blood transfusion at some point during their treatment, only 3% of eligible Americans donate blood each year. This is just one of many reasons why donating blood is so important! There’s a good chance your donation could help someone battling cancer, and just a few minutes of your time can make a lifelong difference for them.

If you are considering donating blood or setting up a blood drive in your community, visit The Blood Connection website to get in touch with us today.  We would love to talk with you and give you more information on how you can be a lifesaver in your community.