Hodgkin's Disease and Blood or Organ Donation

Li Liu, MD
Last Modified: November 1, 2001

Dear OncoLink "Ask the Experts,"

I have been treated for recurrent/refractory Hodgkins disease, first with ABVD, then with ICE, mantle field and total lymph node irradiation, followed by cytoxan and more etoposide and an autologous peripheral blood stem cell transplant.

I have been told that I am no longer eligible to donate blood. I presume this is because lymphoma is a disease of the blood cells or is it merely because it would be harmful to me due to a reduced ability for me to regenerate the blood?

Also, even if I were ineligible to donate blood, would I be able to donate organs? Which, if any, organs would be okay and which would not?  
Thank you,

Li Liu, MD, OncoLink Editorial Assistant, responds:

Dear CM,
Thank you for your question and willingness of sharing the gift of your life to help other needy people. Your generosity is encouraging to other people in support of organ and tissue donation as one of the highest expressions of compassion and generosity.

The organ and tissue donor eligibility criteria for cancer patients are:

  • Primary brain tumor: Primary brain tumors tend to stay inside the brain without distant metastasis. Therefore the patients with brain tumor are potential donors of organ and tissue outside of the brain.
  • Localized cancer: Of the patients with localized cancer, such as skin cancer, early stage head and neck cancer, and early stage breast cancer, if there is no evidence of disease and the patient has been followed closely by their doctors for at least 5 years, they are potential organ and tissue donors.
  • Patients with active malignant disease: their cornea might be suitable for donation. This is determined on an individual basis by examiners.
The criteria for blood donation are similar to organ and tissue. Only patients with early localized cancer, such as carcinoma in situ, are potential blood donors if they have no evidence of disease for at least 5 years. Patients who have had chemotherapy in the past are not eligible for blood donation regardless of their cancer status. This is simply because the patients who received chemotherapy in the past are likely to have advanced disease. Because of the limitation of current technology, we are unable to detect small amount of cancer cells in the blood, organ, or tissue. This is to protect recipients.

You can contact US Health Resources and Services Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services for details by visiting their web site, www.organdonor.gov.