Organ donation: Can I be an organ donor if I've had cancer?

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Organ donation: Can I be an organ donor if I've had cancer?

Question

Can someone who has had cancer be an organ donor?

Jane
New Jersey

Answer

In general, people who have been diagnosed with or have a history of cancer are excluded from organ donation. However, under certain circumstances exceptions may be made in using organs from donors with a history of certain cancers. This is particularly true if the cancer was successfully treated many years ago, and there is no evidence it has recurred. In addition, some types of skin cancer and brain cancer almost always remain localized and don't spread. Some individuals with such cancers also may be acceptable organ donors.

According to the American Cancer Society, the risk of passing on cancer to an organ recipient is exceedingly small. However, there have been rare reports in the medical literature of this happening.

Last Updated: 04/17/2006
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