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Blood Donation FAQs

Why do cancer patients need blood?

Some cancers and cancer treatments harm blood cells. If red blood cells drop, a patient feels weak, tired and short of breath. If platelets or plasma proteins decrease, a patient may bleed. 

How often can I donate whole blood?

If you are in good health and you meet all requirements, you may donate:

  • Whole blood every 56 days (8 weeks)
  • Platelets every 48 hours, up to 24 times in one year
  • Platelets and red blood cells together every 56 days (8 weeks)
  • Double red blood cells every 112 days (16 weeks)

Are there risks to me when I donate?

There are almost no risks to you. Except for a slight discomfort at the beginning of the collection, most donors report no problems. You cannot become infected with any new disease by donating.

What if I am on medication?

Most medications are acceptable. Call us in advance at (713) 792-7777 if you have any questions. It is always a good idea to bring a list of your medications when you come to donate. Certain aspirin and herbal products deactivate platelets. 

To donate platelets, you need to wait 48 hours after taking aspirin or aspirin-containing products such as, ibuprofen, Motrin, Advil, Nuprin, Aleve, Excedrin and herbal supplements containing, ginseng, gingko biloba, garlique or ginger. Energy drinks that contain any of the previous products will also defer you for 48 hours for platelet donations. (These include Monster, NOS, Rockstar, Full Throttle, AMP, Sobe, TAB Energy)

How long does it take to donate? 

Whole blood - collection takes only about 7-12 minutes, the complete process takes about 20 to 40 minutes

Platelets and platelets plus red blood cells - collection takes 1 to 1 1/2 hours, the complete process takes between 1 1/2 and 2 hours.

Double red cells - collection taking 25-35 minutes, the complete process takes between 35 - 45 minutes

How long is donated blood kept?

Red blood cells are good for 42 days. Platelets are good for two days. Plasma is frozen and can be used for one year.

Do I need to know my blood type to donate?

No, however, we can mail you your blood type at your request after your donation.

What happens to my blood or platelets after I donate?

Every donation is tested for a battery of tests (including infectious disease testing) each time you donate. All tests must be negative in order to be used by our patients. Blood is separated into components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Can I make an autologous donation?

You must have physician approval to donate blood for yourself. Please call (713) 792-7777 for more questions.

I travel quite a bit. Am I still eligible to donate blood?

The MD Anderson Blood Bank, like all blood centers in the U.S., gets frequent updates on areas of concern from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you were wondering whether your travel history might make you ineligible, please call us at 713-792-7777.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center