It was almost four years ago when I was diagnosed with advanced, stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Having never had cancer before, I had questions. So many questions.
Every time I met with my oncologist, usually right before my infusion appointment (that’s when you sit in a chair for a while with an IV in your arm and get your scheduled chemo dose), I’d pull out my list. Some were actionable “what should I do” questions, but many were just “what the hell is happening to my body” or “how does all this work” kind of questions.
One was this: “If the cancer has already spread all over my body, then does that mean I can’t donate my blood or organs?” The answer to this question will vary for every patient. For me, the answer was: “Yes it does. No, you can’t. No blood donations, and no organ donations. Ever.”
Although it’s extremely rare, even a few cancer survivors who were thought to be totally cancer-free have transmitted their cancer to an organ recipient. Blood donations can also be problematic, esppecially for blood cancers like luekemia or lymphoma. If you have those type of cancers, you probably won’t be donating blood again. But an early-stage cancer that hasn’t spread might only mean a month-long waiting period, and other cancers might mean a twelve-month waiting period with no cancer treatments and no recurrence.
Every patient’s case is different. If your cancer is mostly behind you and you want to know more about these questions, talk with your doctor.