Medical Marijuana For Cancer
Cancer is everywhere. In fact, one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with some form of cancer in their lifetime. There are over 100 types of cancer and chances are we all know someone who has either gone through it, is currently going through it, or passed away from the terrible disease, no matter their age. The treatment of cancer often includes the administration of chemotherapy and radiation, which typically result in a number of unpleasant symptoms. Patients have experienced favorable management of multiple symptoms as a result of medical marijuana therapy.
Cancer Is Canada’s Leading Cause Of Death
In 2017, it was estimated that 565 Canadians were diagnosed with cancer every single day. Lung cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer accounted for more than 50% of these diagnoses with the majority being diagnosed aged 50 or older. Though the statistics are heartbreaking, survival rates have been increasing.
Can Medical Marijuana Really Prevent Cancer From Spreading?
Not only has the American Association for Cancer Research found marijuana to slow down growth in tumors on the brain, breasts, and lungs, but the California Pacific Medical Center also announced marijuana may prevent cancer from spreading when they experimented on patients with high levels of Id-1 on their breasts. Id-1 is a protein that plays a huge role in our cell growth and cell differentiation (when cells change from one to another).
Too high of levels can often be found in a variety of cancers like breast cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and more. When these high levels of Id-1 were met with marijuana treatments, the cells became less invasive and slowed down tumor growth.
Medical marijuana can help cancer patients manage nausea and vomiting, pain, and loss of appetite. The potential of managing multiple symptoms makes cannabis an appealing medicine for cancer patients.
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How Does Marijuana Help Fight Cancer?
When the common ingredient in cannabis, Cannabinoid, interacts with the cell receptors in our bodies, like the ones that affect our mind and body, it can help relieve pain, stress, anxiety, depression, and improve loss of appetite, which is important to maintaining a healthy weight as you go through treatment. If you’re struggling through rounds of chemotherapy, medical marijuana can reduce feelings of nausea or vomiting during treatment. Chemotherapy can also cause nerve pain and a feeling of weakness, but marijuana has proven to improve these side effects.
Effects of Medical Marijuana Use
Nausea and Vomiting (Emesis)
As a natural response to the toxicity of chemotherapy treatment, nausea and vomiting result from an elevated level of a serotonin metabolite called 5-Hydroxyindoleacetic acid. The elevated levels of this compound in the blood stream trigger chemoreceptors in the brain leading to nausea and vomiting. The primary action of the cannabinoids in managing nausea and vomiting is thought to be to down-regulate the activity of chemoreceptors reducing the frequency and severity of emetic events.
Evidence in favor of the use of cannabinoids in the management of emetic symptoms associated with chemotherapy has been growing since the 1980s. Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce emetic events and the severity of nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy. There is also evidence to suggest that medical marijuana in low doses will improve the efficacy of conventional antiemetics.
In addition to the management of symptoms associated with chemotherapy, clinical studies have shown cannabinoids are beneficial in the management of nausea and vomiting associated with radiation therapy and in post surgery settings
Anorexia and Cachexia
THC has been shown to promote appetite and reduce wasting in patients who suffer from AIDS as well as those experiencing anorexia-cachexia as result of cancer, and cancer treatments. The appetite-promoting component of medical marijuana coupled with the reduction of emetic symptoms has led many cancer patients to explore the use of cannabis to manage symptoms.
Marijuana has been shown to be particularly effective in the management of neuropathic pain associated with many conditions, including that associated with certain types of cancer. THC has a high affinity for receptors both in the central nervous system and receptors in the peripheral nervous system, which results in an analgesic effect for patients.
One 2010 randomized control trial (RCT) on smoked cannabis concluded that a single inhalation of 25mg of cannabis containing 9.4%. THC reduced the intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well tolerated by patients. RCTs at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) consistently determined that smoked marijuana consistently led to a reduction in pain and worked in conjunction with other analgesics. The analgesic properties of marijuana are strongly supported for the management of chronic neuropathic pain.