Many people think that if they have a medical condition such as cancer, they will not be able to donate their organs (such as a kidney) or tissue (such as the corneas of the eye) to another person when they die. Having, or having had, cancer does not mean you cannot donate your organs or tissue. But it may affect what you can donate.
If you have a medical condition such as cancer, a healthcare professional will review your medical history after you have died. They will then decide whether one or more of your organs or tissues are suitable for donation. This means that while you are alive, you will not know whether your organs or tissues will be suitable. Only your family will know this after you have died.
The cornea is one type of tissue that is usually suitable for donation if a person dies with cancer.
The cornea is the clear tissue at the front of each eye. It lets light into the eye and focuses it on the retina so we can see. If the cornea becomes damaged, it can mean you may no longer be able to see.
Corneal transplants can replace the damaged tissue with a disc of healthy tissue from a donor’s eye (or eyes). This can allow the person to see again.
Finding out more about organ and tissue donation
You can find out more about organ and tissue donation by visiting the NHS Blood and Transplant website. They keep a register of people who wish to donate their organs or tissue after their death. You can join the register online, by phone or by text.
Since 1 December 2015, the way people in Wales choose to donate their organs has changed. People living in Wales are expected to opt out if they do not want to be an organ donor.
If you live in Wales and want to be a donor, you can:
- choose to be a donor by registering your decision (opting in)
- do nothing, which means you have no objection to being a donor (deemed consent).
If you do not want to be a donor, then you must register a wish not to be a donor (opting out).
You can find more information at organdonationwales.org