Cannabis and Cancer

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Cannabis and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the “most common cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity.” 230,815 women and 2,109 men in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer in one year. Given that 39.6% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, cancers affects nearly everyone. Chances are, someone close to you has battled cancer.

Oncologists, more than doctors in any other discipline, support the option of recommending cannabis as part of a treatment program for patients suffering from cancer. However, while the positive effects of using cannabis to alleviate cancer symptoms have been well documented, the U.S. government continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Consequently, the federal government’s position on cannabis stifles much-needed research on cannabis as a “cure” for cancer.

How Can Cannabis Help Cancer?

Cannabis contains at least 85 different types of cannabinoids, the active chemicals that create effects throughout the body. The impact of these cannabinoids in treating cancer symptoms as well as the side effects of cancer therapies is great.

Cannabinoids that are known to benefit people living with cancer include CBC, CBD, CBDa, CBG, THC, and THCa. Cannabidiol (CBD) is known to relieve pain, lower inflammation, and decrease anxiety without the “high” of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis. In Canada, a cannabis extract containing THC and CBD called Nabiximols/Sativex is approved for pain relief in patients with advanced cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Other effects of cannabinoids include anti-inflammatory activity, blocking cell growth, preventing the growth of blood vessels that supply tumors, fighting viruses, and relieving muscle spasms. Cannabis is attributed to improved mood and sense of well-being. Studies suggest cannabis can be used for symptom management in cancer patients by preventing vomiting, stimulating appetite, providing pain relief, and improving sleep as well as inhibiting the growth of certain types of tumors.

Is cannabis a cure for cancer?

On the question of cannabis as a cure, Dr. Abrams, a cannabis advocate and one of the leading oncologists and cancer researchers in the world, cautions on the use of the term “cure”:

“Cure is a huge word in oncology. It usually implies that the patient has survived 5 years without evidence of their cancer. What we do know is that cannabis is truly an amazing medicine for many cancer and treatment-related side effects — nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia.” Said Dr. Abrams. There is no doubt that cannabis is effective at treating cancer-related symptoms and treatment-related side effects, but the jury is still out on whether cannabis can actually “cure” cancer.

Because cancer affects so many people, it’s natural to want confirmation that cannabis can, without question, cure cancer. The Web is rich with stories from people who claim cannabis, particularly “cannabis oil,” cured or reversed their cancer.

Cannabis Cancer Research Shows Promise, But We Need to Do More

As we search for anti-cancer treatments, the anti-cancer potential of cannabis has been examined in numerous scientific studies on cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids, resulting in promising leads. Significant research has demonstrated that cannabinoids may inhibit or stop the growth of cancers — including breast, brain, liver, pheochromocytoma, melanoma, leukemia, and other kinds of cancer. Moreover, cannabinoids have proven to promote apoptosis, the programmed death of tumor cells, while stopping angiogenesis, blood vessel production to the tumor. One study, conducted, showed that in one-third of rats treated, the injection of synthetic THC eliminated malignant brain tumors while extending life in another third.

The research is promising, but thus far it has been limited to preclinical studies, which are studies of drugs or treatments in animals prior to being carried out in humans. While the preclinical research offers hope, before anyone can confidently claim that cannabis can provide a “cure,” clinical research needs to be done.

Further, because cancer describes a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth, it’s unlikely there will be a single “cure-all” cannabis remedy. Likewise, naturally-derived or synthetic cannabinoid agonists may be need to be combined with traditional chemotherapeutic regimens or supplemental alternative medicines.

In order for cannabis to find its way into routine clinical cancer treatment, rigorous pharmacological and clinical studies need to be done. And to accelerate this process, the federal government should lift the federal ban on medical cannabis.

Cannabis and other Cancer treatments 

In popular culture, the terms “cannabis” and “cancer treatment” often go hand-in-hand. This idea is backed up by modern scientific research—a growing body of evidence supports the use of cannabis for the treatment of cancer and associated symptoms such as pain, nausea, and loss of appetite.

Unfortunately, lack of cannabis education for physicians coupled with the legal status of cannabis makes many oncologists reluctant to recommend cannabis to their patients. Because of this, patients often use cannabis without informing their doctors. According to a 2018 survey of cancer patients, one in eight patients reported using cannabis to treat cancer symptoms. In the same study, only 15% of patients agreed with the statement “Cannabis interferes with other medications.”

This is a dangerous misconception. According to Dr. Joseph Rosado, cannabis physician, lecturer, and author of Hope and Healing: the Case for Cannabis, cannabis interacts with every medication that is processed through the liver, including all chemotherapy drugs.

Read more about his opinions here

Read a patient’s guide to medical cannabis here 

In their new documentary Weed the People, executive producer Ricki Lake and director Abby Epstein explore the impact that medical cannabis is having on pediatric cancers, as well as the difficulties parents, doctors, and caregivers face in putting these treatments into action.

Top 5 strains for dealing with Cancer

  • AK48
  • Ingrid
  • AC/DC
  • Harlequin
  • Blueberry Kush

Read why people love these strains here 

Read more about cannabis and cancer here

https://www.leafly.com/news/health/can-cannabis-cure-cancer

https://www.leafly.com/news/health/cannabis-and-cancer

https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/complementary-and-integrative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html

https://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/features/marijuana-breast-cancer

https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/complementary-therapy/types/medical-cannabis 

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