Ask the Organ Donor Experts – Session 5 – Cancer Survivors

Today we bring you the fifth session of our “Ask the Donor Experts!” feature, addressing myths, concerns, or any questions related to organ/tissue donation. We are often approached by cancer survivors with questions about whether they can become a registered organ donor. We turn to Dave Bosch, Chair of Donate Life Illinois and Director of Communications at Gift of Hope to address this question.


I’m a cancer survivor. I can’t be a donor, can I?

To answer your question, a donation will depend on the stage of the cancer at the time of death. When an individual passes away, generally a history of an active cancer within the last five years will preclude organ and most tissue donations. However, cornea donation may still be possible, and organ and other tissue donations may still be possible in the instance of certain brain cancers that have not metastasized.

For this reason, and because criteria differ for different types of organs and tissues, we always encourage people to register as a donor if that is their wish regardless of current medical condition–since that may or may not be their condition at the time of death. Our coordinators conduct a full medical evaluation at that time to determine the individual’s medical eligibility to donate.


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