Cannabis and Cancer Treatment
Did you know that approximately 70 New Zealanders are given a diagnosis of cancer every day? Sadly, cancer is also considered to be New Zealand’s leading cause of death with approximately 9,000 cancer-related deaths reported annually.
There are many different forms of cancer, and each comes with its own unique symptoms and challenges. Sometimes 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.
Adjunctive therapies such as medicinal cannabis are often used to minimise these side effects and promote the highest quality of life for patients.
Medicinal cannabis can be prescribed by any GP in New Zealand. Our real-world experience suggests that many patients may experience significant quality-of-life improvements from medical cannabis.Contact us
Can Cannabis Help? Cancer and Chemotherapy
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are among the most commonly used treatments for many types of cancer. Both involve damaging cells throughout the body, including those that make up hair follicles, skin, and glands. Side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
There is some moderate to strong evidence supporting the benefits of cannabis oil for cancer side effects and to help manage chemotherapy symptoms. More specifically, cannabis may help with:
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV)
- Cancer-related appetite loss
- Cancer-related chronic pain
Cancer-Related Chronic Pain
There is growing evidence to suggest the benefits of CBD and THC for relieving various types of pain, including 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 addition, a 2010 study on people with cancer pain who weren’t responding to conventional opioid medications, researchers found that combining CBD and THC helped to significantly reduce pain. In fact, 43% of patients reported a 30% or greater improvement.
Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting (CINV)
In cases where first-line treatment options are not effective, medical cannabis may be a suitable treatment option. There is some evidence to support the potential of cannabis-based medicines in reducing nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and cancer.
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.
Cancer-Related Appetite Loss
Cannabis has long been thought to be an appetite stimulant, making it a potentially useful adjunct therapy for cancer patients. A number of studies have found that THC, in particular, can promote significant improvements in appetite loss. It is clear, however, that more studies are needed.
There is growing evidence to suggest that medicinal cannabis may improve the symptoms and quality of life of cancer patients. Our experienced physicians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option. Please do get in touch with us to discuss whether medicinal cannabis may be a good option for you or a loved one.Contact us
Questions about Medical Cannabis and Cancer Treatment? Look here.
The short answer is ‘no’. Cannabis should never be substituted for conventional cancer treatment as recommended by your medical professional. Currently, only a very few human trials have explored cannabis for fighting cancer directly. Whilst the results have shown promise, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s still a lot to learn about how cannabis affects cancer.
Scientists have identified several ways that cannabinoids act selectively against cancer cells. These include possibly killing tumor cells while protecting normal ones, stopping growth, inducing apoptosis, inhibiting angiogenesis, and reducing metastasis.
Anecdotal reports suggest cannabis may help reduce tumor mass or even induce remission. Cannabinoids kill tumor cell lines without harming healthy cells. This selective toxicity could make them ideal candidates for treating different types of cancers. However, the research is still very limited and more research is needed before medical experts and scientists will fully understand the effects that cannabis has on tumors.
Keep in mind that medicinal cannabis is considered to be an adjunct therapy only to manage cancer side effects and promote the highest quality of life for the patient.
Cannabis is safe and well-tolerated. That being said, cannabis-based medicines containing THC may cause short-term side effects such as changes in mood, perception, and cognitive function.
Although there is insufficient evidence to claim cannabis is a cure for cancer, sufficient evidence does exist to support the use of cannabis as an adjunct treatment for side effects such as pain, appetite loss and nausea.
Medical cannabis is prescription-only in New Zealand, so if you or a loved one is currently diagnosed with cancer and feel you may benefit from using cannabis to manage symptoms and side effects of treatment, we encourage you to consult with our experienced physicians today.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS), discovered in 1992, is responsible for regulating many physiological functions in humans. Cannabinoids are naturally occurring compounds found in cannabis plants that activate cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body. They are found in the brain, immune system, gastrointestinal tract, endocrine glands, and reproductive organs. These receptors help control processes such as appetite, mood, memory, sleep, pain perception, immune function, inflammation, and fertility.
Cannabis contains cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and terpenes. These compounds interact with receptors throughout the body to produce different effects. Some of these include pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties, and relaxation.
In recent years, there has been increasing interest in the potential health benefits of cannabis and its components. This includes the use of cannabinoids like CBD to treat conditions ranging from epilepsy to pain relief. Research into the medical properties of cannabis has expanded rapidly since the early 2000s, and scientists are now looking at how it affects our bodies and brains. However, despite the growing number of scientific studies, there is still much debate over what role cannabis plays in treating disease and why some people respond well to treatment while others do not.
There is no doubt that cannabis has medicinal value. Studies show that THC, one of the main active ingredients in cannabis, can help relieve symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, and reduce muscle stiffness and improve sleep quality.