Medical Marijuana and Cancer Patients: Can it Help Give them Some Relief?

Cancer is a horrible, life-threatening disease, but there are ways to calm the symptoms. Keep reading for facts on medical marijuana for cancer patients.

The conversation around marijuana—and medical marijuana—is rapidly changing almost daily.

Today, 34 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands offer a public medical marijuana program and 14 states have approved the general use of cannabis for adults.

While issues like criminal justice reform contributed heavily to the perception of the plant, its therapeutic uses have encouraged a rapid transformation in its legal status.

The anecdotal benefits of medical marijuana for cancer patients, in particular, hurries this progress along.

What does medical marijuana offer cancer patients exactly? While it doesn’t fight cancer itself, it does help patients deal with the crippling treatments that come with the battle.

Are you or someone you love undergoing treatment for cancer? Keep reading to learn how cannabis can help you on your journey.

Medical Marijuana: The Diagnosis of Cancer

Cancer is the enemy all humans have in common, and 38.4 percent of us will receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in our lives. When it became clear that marijuana could make cancer treatment more comfortable, the funding flood gates opened among growers, CBD oil producers, and scientists.

At present, there are still very few validated studies on the use of marijuana among cancer patients.

What does exist mostly falls into two categories: smoking marijuana and treatment side effects and THC and cancer cells.

Smoking Marijuana: Managing Treatment Side Effects

Nausea is an incredibly common side effect of chemotherapy. But doctors still don’t fully understand why it occurs so often, and in the case of drugs like cisplatin, why every patient experiences it.

Even still, several studies suggest that smoking marijuana helps patients managed nausea associated with or caused by chemotherapy.

Inhaling marijuana can also help manage the pain caused by damage to the nerves (neuropathic pain). Patients who use cannabis tend to need less pain medication or require a lower strength prescription compared to those who don’t.

As a result, medical marijuana is now becoming a go-to treatment for chronic pain and pain management during cancer treatment.

Studies of patients undergoing treatment for HIV (not cancer) also showed that people found it easier to eat when they smoked marijuana. The findings are good news for those who are on chemotherapy who otherwise struggle to eat and get the nutrients they need to battle the disease.

THC and Cancer Cells: A Cure?

Does cannabis kill cancer cells? Some scientists think it could be possible.

Recent studies suggest that THC and CBD can kill or close the growth of certain types of cancer cells. However, these trials occur in the lab on cancer cells grown in dishes – not in humans. There have been studies of cannabinoids in animal cancer that further the suggestion.

Although these studies are a vital first step, it’s important to remember that the evidence remains far from concrete.

Scientists are also looking towards cannabinoids as a treatment for cancer in humans. So far, results suggest that using cannabinoids is safe. They do not, however, indicate that the therapy controls or cures cancer.

Indeed, there is even evidence that THC negatively impacts some cancers. A 2004 study reported the use of THC caused brain and lung cancer cells to grow faster.

As a result of the mixed messages and lack of research, cancer advocacy groups and medical boards like the American Cancer Society (ACT) urge patients to avoid using marijuana treatment alone to treat cancer. Delaying prescribed medicines can have severe consequences for your health.

Bodies like the ACS recommend using marijuana when prescribed by your physician for treatment side effects management only. We need to learn more about the real impact of THC and cannabinoids before it can be recommended across the board.

What About Hemp or Marijuana Oil?

At present, the studies remain limited to smoked and vaporized marijuana. There is no scientific evidence currently available to identify or validate the effects of oils among cancer patients.

The evidence that does exist mainly involves lung cancer. A 2014 study found that THC and CBD can prime lung cancer cells for radiation therapy, which meant the radiation was more effective. However, this study was performed in lab dishes – not humans.

Have you heard rumblings of marijuana oil and cancer treatment recently? It is likely the case of a man who had lung cancer and used only CBD to treat it. The man’s case seemed to respond to the CBD oil. However, there may have been other factors that caused his cancer to retreat. And because it was a case study, CBD oil wasn’t tested for safety or efficacy.

The case is anecdotal and raises important questions. But it is far from conclusive.

Be Aware of the Side Effects of Marijuana Use

Although you can benefit from marijuana during your cancer treatment, it is essential to be wary of the side effects.

People react to THC, the chemical component of marijuana, differently. Additionally, each strain features a different strength, and some strains may cause adverse reactions in patients.

For example, THC can cause you to struggle to concentrate or think clearly. Dizziness and nausea are also common side effects. If you use medical marijuana and have these experiences, report them to your dispensary and your doctor.

Cannabinoids can also interact with other medications. Be sure to consult your physician before starting marijuana in any form to prevent any negative interactions.

Additionally, cannabis use can impair your ability to drive. Be sure that you do not operate a motor vehicle while you are under the influence.

Other Therapies to Help Relieve Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Marijuana shows real promise in helping cancer patients get through treatment. However, it is essential to remember that other therapies can also provide a holistic approach to health.

In addition to using medical marijuana, you might also consider:

  • Counseling
  • THC-based prescriptions
  • Acupuncture
  • Reflexology
  • Reiki
  • Meditation
  • Massage
  • Music/art therapy

Each of these relieves physical and psychological symptoms associated with cancer treatments.

The Bottom Line on Medical Marijuana for Cancer Patients

The study of medical marijuana for cancer patients made immense contributions to the discussion of marijuana generally. It is now legal in 34 states.

However, the growing acceptance of the plant doesn’t mean you should take it on your own. Consult your doctor about your pain management options to ensure that marijuana is the right choice for your body and treatment plan.

Ready for more? Check out some of our other posts for more great content.