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Can I be an organ donor if I have had cancer?

You may be able to be an organ donor if you have had cancer. It depends on the type of cancer you've had and whether it has spread.

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs issued revised guidelines in April 2014. They say you can't donate organs if you've had any cancer that has spread from where it started (metastasised). You also can't donate if you've had 

  • Any type of blood cancer, such as leukaemia or lymphoma
  • Lymphoma in the brain (cerebral lymphoma)

There are other types of cancer that the Committee consider high risk for the donor getting cancer. These are

  • Melanoma
  • Breast cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Bowel cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Sarcoma

But the guidelines say you may still be able to donate organs if you've had some of these types of cancer. The cancer must have been at an early stage, have been treated successfully and there has been no sign of it for more than 5 years.

For other types of cancer, doctors consider each case individually after the potential donor has died. They then make a decision about whether or not some or all of the person’s organs or tissue are suitable for transplant. Because the decision is made after a person has died, unfortunately this means that you won’t know for sure whether you can be a donor or not. But you can let your doctor and family know that you would like to donate if possible.

You can read more about organ donation on the UK transplant website. There is also information about how to join the organ donors register.

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Updated: 30 April 2014