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Hundreds of cancer patients were organ donors, new figures reveal

People with a history of cancer are being reminded they may be able to become organ donors as new figures show nearly 700 patients benefited from such transplants.

People with a history of cancer are being reminded they may be able to become organ donors as new figures show nearly 700 patients benefited from such transplants.


Some cancer patients can donate organs. Photo: iStock

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant reveal that in the five years to March 31, there were 272 UK organ donors with a history of cancer or malignancy. As a result, 675 people received an organ.

Among those donating organs was aspiring midwife Alison Cooney, who died in 2010 from secondary liver cancer, caused by primary bowel cancer.

Her corneas were donated after a donor nurse explained to her family they could be used.

Misconceptions

There is a common misconception that people cannot be organ donors if they have had cancer, but in some circumstances it is possible.

Organ transplant experts are now trying to highlight how people with cancer, or a history of the disease, can be donors.

NHS Blood and Transplant associate medical director for organ donation and transplantation Professor John Forsythe said: 'We are very keen that everyone, regardless of their health status, registers a decision to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register and tells their family they want to donate.'

He added: 'We work hard to minimise the risks to recipients by carefully evaluating all potential organ and tissue donors.'

Guidance from the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs states: 'Risks of cancer transmission must be balanced against the risks of dying without transplantation.'

Sights saved

One in 10 people on the NHS Organ Donor Register do not want to donate their eyes, yet NHS Blood and Transplant needs 70 corneas a week for sight-saving transplants.

Ms Cooney’s donation helped to save the sight of two people. 

Her mother Ann Cooney said: ‘[A donor nurse] told us that her major organs could not be donated, because of the aggressive nature of her illness, but her eyes could be used.

‘I remember saying to the nurse that I could think of nothing better than for someone else to see the world through Alison's eyes.’

 

 

 

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