Medicinal Cannabis and Cancer

There are many different forms of cancer and each comes with it’s own unique symptoms and challenges. Sometimes the cancer itself is not the main issue, but rather it is the treatment-related side effects that are unbearable, such as prolonged nausea or reduced appetite and body weight loss. Thankfully, medicinal cannabis has a role to play and can improve your quality of life, or that of a loved one.

Cancer and cancer treatments (radiotherapy, chemotherapy etc) can result in a diverse range of symptoms. The list below includes the most common symptoms we can treat. If your symptom is not listed we are still able to consult with you and consider using medicinal cannabis products.

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mental health problems – anxiety, stress, depression
  • Insomnia

What Can Happen During Cancer Treatment

Cancer is a disease caused by genetic changes (mutations) to DNA that lead to uncontrolled cell growth in the form of tumours. Cancer is currently the second-leading cause of death in the world. One of the most effective treatments for cancer is chemotherapy, also known as “chemo”. Chemotherapy aims to eliminate cancer from the body by preventing cancerous cells from reproducing rapidly.

Chemotherapy can cause several side effects such as…

  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cognitive and mental health problems

Cancer patients who experience side effects from chemotherapy are often recommended to live a healthier lifestyle. For instance, a cancer patient may focus on improving their diet, exercising regularly, sleeping better, and reduce stress to improve their general wellbeing. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to treat more severe side effects.

How Medicinal Cannabis May Help With Chemotherapy Side Effects

There is some moderate to strong evidence supporting cannabis use to help chemotherapy symptoms. More specifically, cannabis may help to decrease chronic pain, reduce nausea, and increase appetite.

Decreases Chronic Pain

One large review of 28 studies on cannabis and chronic pain led researchers to conclude that “there was moderate-quality evidence to support the use of cannabinoids for the treatment of chronic pain.”

In a 2010 study on people with cancer pain that weren’t responding to conventional opioid medications, researchers found that combining CBD and THC helped to significantly reduce pain. 43% of patients reported a 30% or greater improvement.

Reduces Nausea

In a review of 23 randomized controlled trials on cannabinoids and nausea in adults receiving cancer chemotherapy, researchers found that cannabis may be useful for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

medicinal cannabis and cancer nz

Increases Appetite

Cannabis is well-known to increase appetite (colloquially known as “the munchies”). This appetite increase is due to the psychoactive cannabinoid THC.

Researchers have explored the possibility that cannabis may help with chemotherapy-induced appetite loss and have stated that there is potential. They were clear to say that more studies are needed.

Does Medicinal Cannabis Cure Cancer?

No. Cannabis is not a ‘cure’ for cancer. Cannabis should not be substituted for conventional treatments recommended by your medical professional to actively fight cancer.

Only a few human trials have explored cannabis for directly fighting tumours. The results have shown promise and support the results of anecdotes and several hundred laboratory studies on cannabis and cancer. Despite these promising results, it’s important to keep in mind that we have a lot to learn about how cannabis affects cancer.

Safety of Medicinal Cannabis and Side Effects

Cannabis is safe and well-tolerated. That being said, cannabis — especially cannabis-based medicines containing THC — can cause short term side effects such as changes to mood, perception, and cognitive function.

Although there is insufficient evidence to claim cannabis is a cure for cancer, there is sufficient evidence supporting cannabis use as a legitimate treatment option for chemotherapy side effects such as pain and nausea.

Medical cannabis is prescription only in New Zealand, and so if you or a loved one are currently diagnosed with cancer and feel you may benefit from using cannabis to help reduce symptoms and side effects of treatment, we encourage you to consult with us today.

Conclusion

Medicinal cannabis is an effective treatment plan to help alleviate the symptoms associated with cancer and the treatment side effects. While research continues in exploring cannabis as a treatment for cancer, this remains unproven. CBD oil may be helpful in reducing nausea, to help improve apetite and pain control, small amounts of THC may need to be added in also. If you feel you or a loved one can possibly benefit from treatment with medicinal cannabis, please fill out our consultation form to find out more.