What You Need to Know about Medical Marijuana for Cancer

Herbs and plants were the original treatments for many illnesses and injuries people faced. As such, cannabis or marijuana use dates back centuries. It popped up in Western medicine in the 19th century as a means of relieving pain, inflammation, and spasms.

Today, marijuana use can spark some serious debate, even when considered for medical use only. But regardless of how you feel about its use, more cancer patients are turning to marijuana for a number of reasons.

Marijuana is not legal for use everywhere and researchers have their own concerns about potential side effects. For some patients, however, the benefits can be invaluable as they go through treatment.


Why Patients Turn to Marijuana

These days, more patients have come forward lauding the benefits of medical marijuana as an asset during their cancer treatment to help cope with side effects. Those with particularly aggressive cancers face treatments that are just as aggressive, and which can take its toll on their body.

Many cancer patients decide to use medical marijuana to manage their pain. Some researchers have likened medical marijuana to the use of opioids, the strongest pain reliever. Medical marijuana may help ease moderate to severe pain, and may even act as an anti-inflammatory for some patients.

In some cases, medical marijuana may also help with nerve damage or neuropathy, which is a common side-effect of Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, resulting in numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation.

Other cancer patients who have experienced nausea and vomiting, anorexia or cachexia (loss of body weight and muscle mass, and weakness) as a result of Chemotherapy or Radiation Treatments, have also turned to medical marijuana. Medical marijuana can potentially help increase patients’ appetites.

Many individuals with cancer experience sleep disorders as a result of anxiety, pain, or the medications they’re taking, and rest is a very important aspect of cancer treatment. Medical marijuana has proved invaluable in providing anxiety relief and better sleep for many.

In general, patients who use and benefit from marijuana say it allows them to have a better quality of life and stay more positive, and a positive attitude is essential in fighting cancer.


Studies around Marijuana and Cancer

Research around the medical uses of marijuana for cancer patients is generally limited. There have been a number of pre-clinical or laboratory studies, as well a limited number of clinical trials involving marijuana as a means to reduce some treatment side effects.

Pre-clinical studies have looked into potential anti-tumour effects of marijuana and its influence on cancer side effects. A few studies have suggested its use could help inhibit tumour growth, and possibly even kill cancer cells while protecting the body’s normal cells, although this evidence is inconclusive.

Other similar pre-clinical studies observed the use of cannabinoids, a resin from cannabis plants, with cells of specific cancer types including breast cancer and liver cancer. These studies showed the plant helped protect normal cells, while killing cancer cells in the body.

Clinical studies around its use have so far mainly focused on how it may help with symptoms or cancer treatment side effects. These trials have looked into cannabinoids’ influence on nausea, stimulating appetite, pain relief, anxiety, and sleep. Researchers saw mixed to positive results in their studies and stated further study would be required.

While most international cancer organisations do not have a particular stance on the use of medical marijuana, they do encourage continued study to see how it might benefit cancer patients.

On the other hand, there are also children’s hospitals such as the Children’s Hospital Colorado that do use marijuana:

Marijuana or a product derived from marijuana is often used to decrease side effects in adults with cancer. There are several FDA-approved and commercially available anti-nausea medicines derived from marijuana (such as Marinol) that are frequently used by adults and children with cancer, and doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado often prescribe these medications.”


National Geographic published a great article, Science Seeks to Unlock Marijuana Secrets, in June 2015, as well as a full documentary, Cannabis For Kids: The Children Behind The Debate.

More parents are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a cannabis extract with little or none of the psychoactive compound THC, to treat their children who have cancer and epilepsy. The oil is currently legal in dozens of states, but its supply is limited. And the science lags the law—dosing standards haven’t been set, and the effects of long-term use are unclear. Follow Penn and Nicole Mattison and their daughter Millie, Tracy and Josh Ryan and their daughter Sophie, and Sarah and David Rowland and their daughter Lily as they navigate the challenges of using CBD oil.”

Here is a portion of that video, entitled Sophie’s Story:

Published on Jun 19, 2015
Tracy and Josh Ryan’s daughter, Sophie, was a typical eight-month-old girl until the day her eye began twitching. An MRI showed that she had an optic pathway glioma brain tumor. Given how young she was, the only option was to begin chemotherapy, though the Ryans were told that the tumor would probably shrink only slightly. Convinced that the chemotherapy wasn’t doing enough, they began to research other options.

You can watch the Full Documentary, Cannabis For Kids: The Children Behind The Debate (21 mins) HERE


Regardless of any personal feelings one may have around marijuana use, the truth is that medical marijuana has had a positive influence for many cancer patients. With time, there will likely be more studies to better learn about its effects and all potential benefits.



Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use.

LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.

Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.





About LFCT

CHILDHOOD CANCER and CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a non-profit Childhood Cancer support organisation that offers support and aid to Children with Cancer and their families. When a child is diagnosed with cancer it affects the whole family. One of the parents, usually the mother, must give up their job to care for the child and this creates financial problems for the family. In South Africa especially the majority of these families are not well-to-do; many of them are rural. A diagnosis of cancer can wipe out any family’s finances, let alone a poor family. The costs of special medications, special diets, hospital stays, transport to and from the hospital or clinic and accommodation and food costs for the mother who spends most of the time at her child’s bedside are astronomical. These are the people and problems that fall through the cracks, and these are the people that Little Fighters Cancer Trust has pledged to help in any way possible. LFCT takes a holistic approach to assisting the Children with Cancer and their Families, with the main aim to be the preservation of individual dignity and pride. Little Fighters Cancer Trust also focuses on promotion and advocacy of National Childhood Cancer Awareness in an effort to increase awareness of Early Warning Signs of Childhood Cancer. This would result in earlier diagnosis, giving the Child with Cancer more of a chance at Treatment and Survival. See "About" for more Background info

Posted on 26 July, 2017, in Alternative Treatments, Blog, Cancer Treatments, Videos and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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