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Medical Marijuana and Cancer, Kidney

marijuana and kidney cancer

Every year, more than 1.3 million new cases of cancers are diagnosed. Of these, more than 50,000 are kidney cancer, according to the Kidney Cancer Association. If you are one of the many individuals living with this disease, there are many routes of treatment, including medical marijuana.

kidney cancer statistics

Below, we cover medical marijuana for kidney cancer and how it might help you if you want to opt for a path that’s an alternative or addition to conventional treatment.

What Is Kidney Cancer?

Kidney cancer begins in your kidneys, which are located on the upper back wall of your abdomen. They’re bean-shaped and are approximately the size of your fist. Your lower rib cage protects these organs.

The primary job of your kidneys is to filter the blood coming in from your renal arteries to take away excess salt, water and waste products. These eventually become urine. Your kidneys also have a few other jobs:

  • They help ensure your body has its correct quota of red blood cells by making erythropoietin.
  • They help control your blood pressure by creating a hormone known as renin. 

Cancer begins in the cells of your body. Usually, healthy cells divide and grow to create new cells when they’re needed by your body. When your cells get damaged or grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.

The process can at times go wrong. New cells may form when your body doesn’t need them. Damaged or old cells may not always die as they should. When this occurs, the buildup of extra cells forms a tumor or growth. Kidney tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).

Malignant tumors may be:

  • Life-threatening
  • Removed but can also grow back
  • Able to damage and invade nearby organs and tissues
  • Spread to other body parts

Benign tumors, on the other hand, are:

  • Usually not life-threatening.
  • Able to be removed or treated without often growing back.
  • Usually non-invasive to body tissues.
  • Usually not spread to other body parts. 

Types of Kidney Cancer

There are three main types of kidney cancer. Renal cell cancer is the most common in adults. Transitional cell cancer is also common in adults. Wilms tumors are more common in children.renal cell cancer

History of Kidney Cancer

Daniel Sennert made the earliest known reference to kidney tumors back in 1613, as reported by Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The first description of renal carcinoma was in 1810. In 1957, thalidomide went on the market as an immunomodulatory drug. It’s still used today in cancer treatment. The establishment of Nephrology as the study of the kidney and its functions occurred in 1960, and the founding of the Kidney Cancer Association occurred in 1990.

Effects of Kidney Cancer 

According to the American Cancer Society, early stage kidney cancers don't usually show any symptoms or signs. Larger cancers or advanced kidney cancers can. Some possible symptoms and signs of kidney cancer are: 

  • Tiredness
  • Lump or mass on the lower back or side
  • Hematuria (blood in the urine)
  • Low back pain on one side
  • Appetite loss
  • Anemia
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever

You may also feel depressed due to your symptoms.

Kidney Cancer Statistics 

Statistics about kidney cancer reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include:

annual statistics for kidney cancer

  • Physicians diagnose an average of 37,000 males and 21,000 females with kidney and renal pelvis cancers annually.
  • 59,395 people had the disease in 2014. 

Current Treatments Available for Kidney Cancer and Their Side Effects

Your doctor and treatment team will discuss your kidney cancer treatment options with you. They’ll take various factors into account, such as: 

  • The type of kidney cancer you have.
  • Whether or not it has spread.
  • Your treatment preferences.
  • Your general health. 

Treatment usually consists of one or more of the following:

Surgery

Surgery is the primary treatment for most kidney cancers. The goal is to remove the tumor while preserving healthy kidney function. Surgical procedures used to treat kidney cancers can include: 

  • Kidney removal (nephrectomy): A nephrectomy consists of removing your entire kidney, some healthy tissue and sometimes nearby tissue such as the adrenal glands or lymph nodes.
  • Removing the tumor from your kidney (partial nephrectomy): A partial nephrectomy, also known as nephron-sparing or kidney-sparing surgery, involves your surgeon removing your tumor along with some healthy tissue surrounding it. Kidney-sparing surgery is commonly used to treat small kidney cancers or cases where the patient only has one kidney.

Surgery usually carries the risk of infection and bleeding. However, if your cancer hasn’t spread beyond your kidney, you typically won’t need any other treatment. 

Nonsurgical Treatments

If you only have small tumors, nonsurgical treatments may be an option. These include: 

  • Heat Treatments: During the heat treatments known as radiofrequency ablation, your doctor runs a probe through your skin and into the tumor. This causes an electrical current to run through the needle and directly into the cancer cells.
  • Freezing Treatments: During the freezing procedure referred to as cryoablation, a hollow needle goes through your skin and into the tumor. Cold gas flows through the needle to freeze the cancer cells. 

Treatments for Recurrent and Advanced Kidney Cancer 

If you have recurrent or advanced kidney cancer, the following treatments may work:

  • Biological Therapy:  Also known as immunotherapy, biological therapy uses your body's immune system to fight your cancer. Drugs in this category include nivolumab (Opdivo), aldesleukin (Proleukin) and interferon.
  • Surgery: Surgery can remove as much of the tumor as possible. It can also remove cancer that has spread to other areas of your body.
  • Targeted Therapy: Targeted treatments can stop cancer cells from multiplying. These can be especially helpful for treating cancers that have spread to other areas of your body. Drugs like sorafenib (Nexavar) and bevacizumab (Avastin) block signals that relate to the blood vessel growth that nourishes cancer cells and enables them to spread.
  • Radiation Therapy: Radiation is sometimes used to reduce or control kidney cancer that has spread to other areas of your body. 

All conventional treatments carry the risk of some side effects. You should discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Kidney Cancer

You may have heard about medicinal marijuana use in the treatment of cancer. But what are the facts? Marijuana is the common name for the dried leaves and buds of the Cannabis sativa plant. Other names for the plant are hash, ganja, weed, grass, pot, cannabis and many more. 

Marijuana has been used medicinally for centuries due to its many biologically active components known as cannabinoids. The two most prominent are cannabidiol (CBD) and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Among other things, CBD is useful for reducing paranoia, anxiety and for treating seizures. It can also counteract the high feeling caused by THC. THC is good for combating nausea, pain and for reducing inflammation.

marijuana relief for kidney cancer patients

A strong argument for the legalization of medical pot is that it provides relief for cancer patients. It’s known to be especially helpful to you if you’re undergoing chemotherapy. A twenty-year study by the California Pacific Medical Center discovered that CBD could eliminate metastasis in extreme cases of cancer.

What Symptoms of Kidney Cancer Does Medical Marijuana Treat?

Cannabis is useful for treating depression, anxiety, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, insomnia and pain.

Information reported by the American Cancer Society relating to kidney cancer and medical marijuana includes:

  • Patients that consumed pot extracts in clinical trials needed less pain medication.
  • Smoking pot can alleviate nausea and vomiting in chemotherapy patients.
  • Inhaling pot is helpful for treating neuropathic pain.
  • Taking cannabis with THC and CBD slowed the growth and/or caused the death of some types of lab-grown cancer cells.
  • Smoking cannabis promotes food intake in HIV patients.
  • Taking cannabinoids can reduce the spread and slow the growth of some types of cancer, according to some animal studies. 

To date, many states have approved cancer as a qualifying condition for the use of medical cannabis.

Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Kidney Cancer

Now that you know more about how medical cannabis can help you, let’s take a look at some of the best strains of medical cannabis for kidney cancer in relation to symptoms you might be experiencing.

Mood

Suffering from chronic illness can get you down. If you feel depressed or anxious, the following strains can help: 

  • Blue Dream: This hybrid strain makes you feel relaxed, happy, and jovial. It also sparks your creativity so is useful to take at the beginning of a working day.
  • Chocolope: People seeking relief from depression and tiredness take the sativa chain called Chocolope.

Appetite

Loss of appetite is common when you have cancer. Fortunately, cannabis is famous for giving people “the munchies.” If you’re experiencing a lack of appetite, these strains may help: 

  • Maui Bubble Gift: The indica-dominant hybrid is good for treating nausea and lack of appetite.
  • Platinum Purple Kush: This indica strain makes you feel hunger pangs along with a happy, clear mindset. 

Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of some conventional cancer treatments. These strains of pot can make you feel more like yourself again: 

  • Jillybean: Jillybean is a sweet-tasting hybrid that makes you feel relaxed, uplifted and nausea-free.
  • Super Lemon Haze: A popular sativa that eases nausea, vomiting and gastrointestinal distress, Super Lemon Haze also boasts chronic fatigue and depression-fighting properties. 

Insomnia

Sleeping can often be difficult when you’re in pain. The following strains are helpful for enabling you to get a good night’s rest:

  • Grandaddy Purple: Granddaddy Purple is an indica strain that treats both depression and insomnia.
  • Bubba Kush: As a 90 percent indica, Bubba Kush relieves muscle tension and helps you relax naturally.

Pain

If you don’t like the idea of using conventional pain-killing drugs, these marijuana types can help: 

  • SuperBud: A pungent indica, SuperBud boosts your brain power and fights pain.
  • Jack Herer: Jack Herer is a sativa-dominant hybrid that’s filled with natural painkillers. It contains pinene that prevents cancer cell proliferation in the brain.

Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment to Use to Treat Kidney Cancer Symptoms

You no doubt have many questions about the best route of delivery of cannabis for kidney cancer. Remember that you can experiment with any of the following methods of taking pot until you find the one that suits you: 

Smoking

Although smoking gives you fast relief, it can also irritate your lungs. If you wish to smoke marijuana, start off with a small hit to see how you’re affected. Bear in mind that you will smell of pot if you choose this treatment route. 

Edibles

Edibles can take a while to kick in though so you need to be wary of taking too much. These are often considered to be a palatable choice for you if you’re inexperienced regarding pot use. You can buy edibles ready-made, or you can make your own.

Topicals

You put topicals directly onto your skin to relieve localized pain and inflammation.&

Vaping

Vaping is less hard on your lungs than smoking. For this reason, many people prefer vaping to smoking a joint. 

Suppositories

This method of consuming pot allows the drug to be rapidly absorbed through your colon. The effects tend to be long-lasting. These are a good choice if you don’t like the idea of vaping or smoking or if you have trouble swallowing. 

Tinctures and Sprays

Tinctures and sprays absorb through your mouth. They take a while to kick in and can be expensive.

Transdermal Patches

You can purchase transdermal timed-release patches that are similar in idea to nicotine patches. The active ingredients go straight into your bloodstream. Because of this delivery method, patches are a solid choice for full-body pain relief. 

Taking Fresh Cannabis

To get the full medicinal benefit from fresh cannabis, you should consume the leaves immediately after blending them. One downside is that you need a large and constant supply of leaves. You also won’t have immediate symptomatic relief as the pot takes time to travel through your digestive system.

Getting Cannabis From a Medical Marijuana Dispensary

When it comes to finding the right strains of marijuana for kidney cancer, you may have to experiment before you find the right fit. You also need to get a medical marijuana card first. Once you have it, you can visit a dispensary immediately. There, you can ask all the questions you have on your mind regarding products, strains, dosing and more.

Be sure to bring your personal identification card and written recommendation with you to your medical marijuana dispensary. You’ll need to sign in and wait until you’re called.

You’ll have plenty of opportunities to look through the menu of available medical cannabis products throughout that time.  Plus, your budtender can answer any questions about the various strains and products available.  If you’re looking for a strain that helps stimulate your appetite, just ask. Or if you’re looking for the most popular strain for curbing nausea related to chemotherapy for kidney cancer, you’re budtender can point you in the right direction.

Remember that whenever you’re carrying your medical cannabis, you should always keep your card or a copy of your recommendation with you for legal reasons. If you wish to know more about cannabis and kidney cancer, search for a medical marijuana doctor or dispensary today.

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This information is not provided by medical professionals and is intended only to complement, and not to replace or contradict, any health or medical advice or information provided by healthcare professionals.  If you have any questions, please contact your doctor or other healthcare professional.

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