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I’ve Been Ill. Can I Still Donate Blood?

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My wife and I have always been regular blood donors, but I was treated for cancer last year (my doctor just declared me cancer-free!) and take blood pressure medication and my wife has Parkinson’s disease. Can we still donate? 

Most cancer survivors can still donate blood, but there are restrictions. For instance, you cannot donate if you are currently being treated, or if you have had leukemia or lymphoma (including Hodgkin’s disease) or other blood cancers. The American Red Cross allows donations from cancer survivors who finished treatment at least 12 months earlier, have had no recurrence and their cancer has not spread. Lower risk in-situ cancers that have been removed (such as a squamous or basal cell skin cancer) do not require this waiting period. These restrictions were created to protect  the donor and to keep the blood supply as safe as possible. However, it should be noted that there has never been a case of cancer transmission through a blood transfusion.

As for your wife, there’s no evidence that degenerative brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease, are transmitted through blood transfusions, according to a recent Swedish study involving 40,000 patients. Taking into account each person’s health and other factors, people with these conditions are able to donate.

In some cases, the medications taken for certain conditions will pose a problem. For example, most people with heart disease can donate as long as they have been treated and have had no heart-related symptoms within the past six months. However, the prescription blood thinners that heart patients routinely take, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or apixaban (Eliquis), will make them ineligible. The Red Cross recommends checking its website (RedCrossBlood.org) and looking under “Eligibility Criteria” for a list of medications that may cause you or your wife to be deferred from donating.

Note: Various donation centers might have slightly different guidelines, so check the one in your area. For the American Red Cross guidelines, visit RedCrossBlood.org.

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Source: Dayand Borge, MD, PhD, chief medical officer, East Division, American Red Cross Date: June 28, 2017 Publication: Bottom Line Health
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