Saturday October 17, 2015
Cancer affects millions of people across the world. Every year, an estimated 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer, of which only a fraction survive. Cancer patients and their loved ones often face financial hardship as a result of the disease, as well, due to the high cost of treatment coupled with lost time from work.
If marijuana really can help cure cancer, millions of people could receive affordable treatment without the sometimes debilitating side effects caused by other forms of treatment. Let’s answer the latest question from our fans below:
Does cannabis really cure cancer?User from Colorado Springs, CO
Before discussing the many ways cannabis can help cancer patients, let’s discuss what cancer is in the first place.
What is Cancer?
Cancer is a nasty disease in which abnormal cells within the body multiply rapidly and spread into surrounding tissue. Cancer can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors and can start virtually anywhere within the body; the initial location of cancerous cells is often used to identify what type of cancer it is.
Traditional cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Though effective at reducing the growth and spread of certain cancer cells, these forms of treatment are not without their drawbacks. Those who must undergo chemotherapy and radiation, for example, are often left feeling extremely tired and nauseous. They may also experience bleeding and bruising easily, may have difficulty defecating and may lose their hair all as a result of therapy rather than the disease itself.
Cannabis Can Improve Cancer Symptoms
Numerous studies have shown that cannabis can relieve the symptoms of cancer and corresponding treatment side effects. From pain moderation and nausea relief to improved mobility and increased appetite, cannabis can make cancer treatment all the more bearable.
But is can it really stop tumor growth, too?
Cannabis and Tumor Growth
There is an unfortunate lack of research on cannabis and its anti-tumor properties. For this reason, the FDA has not approved use of alternative cannabis therapy to treat cancer. Though preclinical research indicates that cannabinoids can slow or even reverse the growth of certain cancer cells, it is important to note that very few human trials have been conducted. Nevertheless, preliminary research indicates that both CBD and THC have anti-cancer properties in both lab and animal tests.
That’s not to say that smoking cannabis on the regular will prevent (or cure) cancer, however. Research has shown that, in order for cannabis to reduce tumor growth, cannabinoids must be very concentrated and should ideally be administered directly into the tumor itself. Because targeted therapy is considered excessively invasive, many health practitioners recommend against it.
The Future of Cannabis Research
Though it is true that human cannabis research trials are lacking, all of that is changing thanks to marijuana reform. With organizations like The American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Institute on Drug Abuse calling for more research on the matter, some governments and independently funded research teams are finally gaining the support they need to pursue more thorough medical marijuana research.
In February, 2015, the state of Colorado approved $9,000,000 in grant money to fund cannabis research. Included in the budget are plans to study cannabis’s effect on pediatric epilepsy and brain tumors, PTSD treatment, sleep disturbances and pain management (compared to oxycodone). Other human clinical trials that are on the horizon include publically-funded brain cancer research, multiple myeloma research and CBD-only anti-tumor research.
We’ve outlined many medical benefits of cannabis – bone regeneration, neuroprotection, pain management and antidepressant, for example – but one area we’ve neglected to discuss is a very delicate and controversial one, indeed: marijuana as a “cure for cancer”.
Though cannabis has been shown to have anti-cancer properties, more research is required in order to discover which cancers respond to cannabis therapy, what dosage is ideal for tumor reduction and what the long-term side effects of cannabis therapy are compared to other forms of treatment.