For patients and their families, a cancer diagnosis ranks among the most serious and challenging health crises one can experience. Though many forms of cancer exist, all are characterized by an abnormal process of cell growth that can progress through the body, damaging healthy tissue. Treatment options vary depending on the type and severity of the cancer, often including radiation, chemotherapy and surgical removal, along with palliative therapies aimed at addressing the range of symptoms associated with the condition. In recent years, many patients have reported finding medical cannabis beneficial in the course of their cancer treatment and researchers are exploring the question of what roles cannabis can play in treating the disease.
Cancer patients face a broad range of difficult symptoms, resulting both from the disease itself and the significant side-effects associated with treatments such as chemotherapy. Severe pain, nausea, vomiting, appetite loss, fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, depression and many other symptoms create a state of constant discomfort that conventional treatments can only do so much to address. Due to the numerous health complications they face, cancer patients we’ve worked with often report seeking out cannabis treatment for a variety of reasons and experiencing varied benefits depending on their individual symptomatic needs.
The American Cancer Society provides a helpful page on the use of cannabis in cancer treatment and summarizes key research findings regarding symptomatic applications.
Nausea and Vomiting:
A number of small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. [ACS]
A few studies have found that inhaled (smoked or vaporized) marijuana can be helpful treatment of neuropathic pain (pain caused by damaged nerves). [ACS]
Smoked marijuana has also helped improve food intake in HIV patients in studies. [ACS]
More recently, scientists reported that THC and other cannabinoids such as CBD slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce spread of some forms of cancer. [ACS]
The National Cancer Institute at NIH also provides a detailed page on cannabis treatment and research, offering a helpful review of laboratory and clinical data regarding the efficacy of cannabis-based therapies for cancer symptoms. While available data are very encouraging, researchers continue to explore new roles for cannabis medicine in cancer treatment. We’re hopeful that further study will bring into focus the role of specific cannabinoids and how they impact various forms of cancer so that treatments can be customized to maximize their therapeutic potential. Many of the benefits reported by patients have yet to be fully documented in clinical studies, so researchers are eager to continue expanding their understanding of the various ways cannabis can impact the disease.
It’s difficult to put into words the scope of the challenges cancer creates for patients and their loved ones. Through its many forms, this disease has impacted countless lives and remains one of the greatest health threats of our time, even as the medical community works tirelessly to find new answers. Our own work has in many ways been inspired by the firsthand experiences of members of our team who’ve cared for friends and family living with cancer. We continue to be inspired by the patients and caregivers we meet everyday who are fighting this disease with a grace and courage that we know can be tough to summon. As always, our team is available to provide any assistance we can to help patients improve their quality of life and ensure that anyone pursuing medical cannabis treatment is able to do so safely, comfortably, and effectively.
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