Can Cancer Survivors Donate Blood or Platelets?

Blood products like whole blood and platelets are lifesaving for cancer patients at Dana-Farber and elsewhere. It comes as no surprise, then, that many cancer survivors want to return the favor by donating at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center, which collects blood products to benefit patients at both Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Blood Mobile
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Blood Mobile

Survivors of solid tumor cancers are eligible to donate blood and platelets beginning one year after they stop taking medication for their cancer; however, survivors of blood cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, and other blood disorders, are permanently deferred due to the nature of their diseases. The timeframe for solid tumor survivors has recently been reduced from five years, as there has never been a report of cancer spreading through blood transfusion. Blood donation does not pose an increased risk to an otherwise healthy cancer survivor one year after treatment has ended.

Some individuals with early stage, localized, solid tumor cancers who have not yet had chemotherapy or radiation, and who feel well, may also be able to donate blood products upon approval from their physician. All blood and platelet donors must also pass the Kraft Center’s vital sign screening, hemoglobin check, and medical questionnaire.

Those who are able to donate can make an appointment at the Kraft Center by calling 617-632-3206 or emailing Individuals who are unable to donate for medical reasons can still get involved and help by sponsoring a blood drive with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham and Women’s Hospital Blood Mobile, the traveling extension of the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center; recruiting others to donate; or volunteering at the Kraft Center.

Thanks to William Savage, MD, PhD, medical director of the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center, and Malissa Lichtenwalter, supervisor of donor recruitment, for providing the information used in this article.