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Medical Marijuana and Cancer

Author: Stacey Khanna, LCSW

Reviewed by Dr Ashok Khanna, M.D.

What is Cancer?

Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. There are over 100 types of cancer.


Cancer is a genetic disease—that is, it is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide.


The body normally eliminates cells with damaged DNA before they turn cancerous. But the body’s ability to do so can be impaired and decreases as we age.


7 Warning Signs of Cancer

  • Unexplained Weight Loss.

  • Fever.

  • Fatigue.

  • Pain.

  • Skin Changes.

  • Change In Bowel Habits or Bladder Function.

  • Unusual Bleeding or Discharge.

Cancer Symptoms

Early cancer symptoms vary by type of cancer but may include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Loss of appetite

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Changes in bowl and/or urination habits

  • Fatigue

  • Persistent hoarseness or cough

  • Night sweats

  • unusual bleeding or discharge

  • Changes in skin appearance or texture such as moles and lumps under the skin,swollen glands

  • Slow healing


How does Medical Marijuana Help?

A number of studies have shown that medical marijuana may help in managing the following cancer symptoms and chemotherapy side effects:


Pain

Marijuana may be helpful for the management of cancer-related pain in conjunction with conventional therapies. For patients with severe cancer pain, opioids are still considered the standard of treatment, but simultaneous use of marijuana may decrease pain signals in the brain, add additional anti-inflammatory properties and protect against nerve damage and neuropathic pain.


Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, is a feeling of weakness, numbness, tingling or burning in the hands and/or feet. It is a common side effect of chemotherapy. Studies have demonstrated that medical marijuana can be helpful in relieving some of the symptoms of nerve damage while acting as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.


Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting is a common side effect of chemotherapy as well as a common symptom of the disease process. Studies have shown that medical marijuana can help reduce or even eliminate nausea and vomiting while helping to prevent weight loss. Delta-9-THC has been the most widely studied and has been shown to be most effective when administered through inhalation and oral methods.


Appetite and weight loss

Studies have demonstrated that sativa dominant strains stimulates appetite which helps safeguard against weight loss in patients with advanced cancer.


Anxiety and Sleep

Extensive studies have shown that medical marijuana helps alleviate anxiety, improve symptoms if depression and restore sleep in patients that have been diagnoses with cancer and those being treated with chemotherapy.



Dosing Recommendations

Research suggests that the best means of administration are oral tinctures, edible or sublinguals to help patients sleep and help decrease cancer symptoms for 6-8 hrs.


1:1 ratio of CBD to THC has been shown to be very effective during the day and tend not to interfere with daily functioning, followed by a high THC level at night such as a Rick Simpson’s Oil which has been found to be most effective for cancer patients..


Always start with the lowest recommended dosage and go slow with increasing dosage. Wait 20 minutes before increasing smokable and inhalation dosages and 45 minutes before increasing oral, sublingual and edible dosages. Start with a low does and increase dosage slow to prevent an unpleasant experience with medical marijuana.


Possible Side Effects of Medical Marijuana

  • Tachycardia

  • Low blood pressure

  • Muscle relaxation

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Slow digestion

  • Dizziness/vertigo

  • Drowsiness

  • Depression

  • Hallucinations

  • Paranoia

Possible Symptoms of Medical Marijuana Withdrawal

If you experience medical marijuana withdrawal, contact your medical marijuana provider.

  • Agitation

  • Restlessness

  • Difficulty Sleeping

  • Hot Flashes

  • Nausea and cramps on rare occasions


References:

https://www.cancercare.org/publications/328-medical_marijuana_and_cancer

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