Hundreds Receive Transplants from Former Cancer Patients

Hundreds Receive Transplants from Former Cancer Patients
Science & Medicine

Many people wrongly believe that once a person has had cancer, their organs will not be able to be used to benefit someone else. However, the National Health Service, or NHS in the United Kingdom, has gone on to debunk that claim in order to raise more awareness of organ donations in hopes that people who may have a history of cancer will still sign up to help others.

Because of long waiting times and lack of available organs, many people in both the United Kingdom and United States die while waiting for a life-saving transplant. The NHS is attempting to bust stereotypes by helping people understand who is and who is not eligible to donate. The organization even discussed that the elderly can still transplant organs if they are in good condition.

Likewise, former cancer patients are also eligible to donate their organs that are still in good shape. In the past 5 years within the United Kingdom, 675 people have received transplants from 272 donors with a history of cancer.  [1]

However, they do not deny that there is a risk of the person receiving the transplant developing cancer. Though this risk is incredibly low, accounting for about a 0.06 per cent risk. This means that often the benefit of the organ outweighs the risk of transferring cancer. But taking into account all variables, doctors should evaluate this risk realistically before making any transplant decisions.

Aside from bodily organs, 1,033 people in the past 5 years with a history of cancer have helped save someone’s sight by donating their eyes. Although not many people have registered to do so within the UK, they estimate that 70 corneas are needed per week to fulfill the demand for transplantation. It is likely a much larger one in the United States, as the population is several times that of the United Kingdom.

John Forsythe, associate medical director for organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

“Please don’t let the fact you have a health condition or have had an illness in the past stop you from registering as a donor.

Organs from deceased donors with some current and past cancers may be safely used, with surgeons balancing the risk of using an organ against the risk of a patient dying waiting for a transplant.

What many people don’t realize is that you could potentially donate your corneas and help save someone’s sight even if certain cancers are a cause of your death.” [2]


[1] BBC

[2] Metro