Medical Marijuana for Tumors
Many wonder if medical marijuana cures cancer, shrinks tumors or at least eases symptoms and side effects of cancer or its treatments like chemotherapy. The main reason patients turn to cannabis for their cancer is to treat their debilitating side effects. And, while there’s not yet an abundance of human trials to back up the claims about the plant for treating cancer, preclinical evidence continues to grow to suggest medical marijuana for tumors may be effective.
What Are Tumors?
Tumors are abnormal growths of cells having no real purpose. Benign tumors aren’t cancerous — malignant tumors are. Benign tumors don’t spread to other areas and parts of your body and invade nearby tissue as cancer does. For the most part, the prognosis of a benign tumor is good, but it can still be dangerous if it’s pressing up on essential structures like nerves or blood vessels. Therefore, some tumors require treatment, while others don’t.
People often use the terms cancer and tumor interchangeably, and this can be misleading. When you have a tumor, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have cancer. A tumor is a mass or a collection of fluid. Cancer is a life-threatening type of tumor. It’s a good idea to know the difference between the two when you’re discussing a potential cancer diagnosis with your doctor.
Types of Tumors
Various types of tumors exist, all with different names. Their names typically are based on their shape, the tissue they are in and the cell origin. Doctors divide tumors into three main groups.
- Benign: Benign tumors don’t spread and aren’t cancerous. They stay in their current form and don’t usually come back once a surgeon removes them. Examples of benign tumors include adenomas, fibroids and lipomas.
- Premalignant: Premalignant tumors aren’t cancerous yet, but seem like they’re developing cancer properties. Examples of premalignant tumors include actinic keratosis, cervical dysplasia and leukoplakia.
- Malignant: Malignant tumors are cancer and tend to spread, grow and get worse. They may even cause death. Examples of malignant tumors include carcinomas, sarcomas and blastomas.
History of Tumors
Throughout history, both humans and animals have had cancer. Therefore, it’s not surprising people have been writing about cancer from the beginning of history. Scientists found earlier evidence of cancer in ancient Egyptian human mummies, fossilized bone tumors and ancient manuscripts. They found growths in mummies indicating bone cancer, as well as bony skull destruction common with neck and head cancer.
Some suggest Hippocrates gave cancer its name because a tumor’s hardness could compare to a crab’s outer shell. Others thought he came up with the name because malignant tumor pain could have reminded him of a crab’s painful pinch.
Symptoms of Tumors
Not all tumors have symptoms, regardless of if they’re benign, premalignant or cancerous. But various symptoms may occur to affect the function of your senses or important organs, depending on the location of your tumor.
For instance, you could experience vision trouble, headaches and fuzzy memory with a benign brain tumor. If you have a tumor near some soft tissue like your abdomen or close to your skin, you may feel the tumor by touch.
Depending on where your benign tumor resides, possible symptoms you may experience include:
- Vision abnormalities
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or discomfort
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
Your benign tumor may be big enough for you or your doctor to detect, especially if it’s close to your skin. However, most of these tumors aren’t big enough to cause pain or discomfort.
You may detect a malignant tumor in several ways.
- Local symptoms: Acute pain, swelling, lumps and hemorrhaging near the tumor.
- Metastatic symptoms:Enlarged liver, enlarged lymph nodes and enlarged spleen if your tumor spreads.
- Systemic symptoms: Excessive sweating, anemia, weight loss due to a lack of appetite, fatigue or other symptoms. These, however, could also indicate an illness instead of a malignant tumor.
If your doctor suspects a tumor, they may refer you to a pathologist, who will perform a cell biopsy to determine if your tumor is malignant or not.
Effects of Tumors
Tumors may cause systemic and other complications due to releasing specific substances. Doctors call these symptoms paraneoplastic syndromes, and they affect the disease’s course. Your doctor can diagnose many of the common symptoms, such as:
- Coagulation defects
Your doctor will focus on the occurrence of syndromes, the pathogenesis, the relationship between certain types of tumor and potential forms of therapy.
Evidence supports the existence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in both cancer patients and cancer survivors. Cancer causes traumatic experiences and has a high risk of being fatal, which can lead to PTSD.
Cancer patients often receive a comorbid mental health condition diagnosis along with their cancer, like depression, anxiety and various other coping and stress adjustment conditions. Treatments for cancer may also cause anxiety and depression. Chemotherapy can cause a side effect called chemo brain, which can cause depression, mental fog, fatigue and other types of cognitive impairments.
Estimates published by the National Institutes of Health and reported by the American Cancer Society show:
- Around 1,688,780 new cases of cancer and 600,920 cancer-related deaths were to occur in 2017 in the U.S.
- For all statistic resources, men had a 20 percent higher cancer incidence rate than women and a 40 percent higher death rate.
- More than 120 forms of brain tumors exist, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
Current Treatments Available for Tumors and Their Side Effects
Your doctor will determine the proper course of treatment for you based on your tumor’s location, size and stage, as well as your overall health.
Benign tumors don’t always require treatment. If you have a small symptomless tumor, your physician may just watch it for a while before taking any action. They do this sometimes when treatment could put you more at risk than just leaving the tumor alone. Some tumors don’t ever require medical intervention.
If your physician decides you need treatment, the type you receive depends on where the tumor resides. For instance, if the tumor is on your neck or face, they may remove it for cosmetic reasons. If your tumor is affecting your nerves, organs or blood vessels, your doctor will likely remove it with surgery to avoid further complications.
The surgeon uses endoscopic techniques during tumor surgery. With these, the instruments the surgeon uses are inside tube-like devices. The surgeon makes smaller surgical incisions with this technique, or none at all. It takes less time to heal and recover using endoscopic instruments, too. If your surgeon can’t access your tumor safely, they’ll likely prescribe radiation therapy to keep the tumor from getting bigger or reduce its size.
Common types of treatment for malignant tumors include the following.
The surgeon may give you chemo before surgery to shrink your tumor and lower the risk of the cancer spreading. They may also provide you with chemo after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells and prevent or delay cancer from coming back.
If your surgeon can’t remove your tumor with surgery, they may prescribe you chemotherapy as your primary treatment, sometimes combined with radiation therapy. The chemo might slow the tumor’s growth or shrink it down in size, but it’s not likely it will eliminate the tumor. Side effects of chemo may include:
- Mouth sores
- Hair loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Increased risk of infection
- Easy bleeding and bruising
Your doctor may use radiation therapy to treat your malignant tumor in a couple of ways:
- They may use it after surgery to kill any remaining cancer they couldn’t remove during surgery.
- They may use it as a palliative procedure to alleviate your cancer symptoms, like pain, trouble swallowing, shortness of breath or bleeding.
Side effects of radiation therapy may include:
- Hair loss
- Shortness of breath
- Sunburn-like skin issues
- Trouble breathing
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
Hormone therapy is a type of systemic treatment doctors use to block, add or remove hormones from your body to stop or slow cancer cell growth. It typically involves medicine to keep your cancer cells from obtaining the hormones they require to grow. Your physician might remove the gland that produces hormones through surgery. They may also combine other cancer treatments with hormone therapy, like radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Different types of hormone therapies may cause certain side effects for certain cancers. For instance, if you have breast cancer, you may experience vaginal discharge, irritation and dryness, hot flashes, mood changes or decreased sex drive. If you have prostate cancer, you may experience a reduced ability to orgasm or achieve an erection. You may experience a higher risk of osteoporosis and muscle and joint pain with aromatase inhibitors.
Cancer surgery provides you with the best chance of a cure for many tumors, particularly if it hasn’t spread. In cases where your surgeon can’t remove the entire tumor, such as if it would cause severe harm to an organ, they may get rid of as much of the tumor as possible to make radiation or chemotherapy more effective.
Your surgeon may perform surgery to relieve your symptoms and improve your quality of life, instead of trying to cure you of cancer. For instance, if the tumor is causing you a great deal of pain because it’s pressing on a bone or nerve or if it’s blocking your intestine, the doctor may perform surgery.
Typically, most cancer surgeries carry a risk of:
- Loss of organ function
- Blood clots
- Altered bladder and bowel function
Your doctor may offer you any of these treatments by themselves, or a combination of them. In some cases, surgery is your best option for tumor removal and to prevent a recurrence, depending on the location of your tumor. Your doctor may recommend you try alternative therapies, along with treatment such as massage, natural remedies and dietary changes.
How and Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Tumors
According to researchers, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive ingredient in medical marijuana, may reduce the growth of tumors in patients with cancer.
The research team found both cannabidiol (CBD) and THC dramatically reduced glioma tumors in their mice models. Glioma causes 80 percent of malignant brain tumors in humans. The study’s lead author, Dr. Wai Lu, reported to the Washington Post they found cannabinoids to be effective in a highly aggressive cancer in adults.
Since the 1970s, research studies have shown marijuana’s positive effect when used to treat cancerous tumors. And since then, case study after case study has confirmed these findings:
- 1977: Showed that cannabinoids in marijuana could decrease the size of tumors and increase the lifespan of mice with these tumors
- March 2000: Found that THC, the main component in marijuana, induces cell death with no neurotoxic effect
- December 2003: Showed the link between endocannabinoid receptors and tumor cells, summarized the antitumor actions of cannabinoids and proposed how cannabis cannabinoids could be used in the future as antitumor agents
- March 2004: Discovered how cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana, also has antitumor effects
- September 2004: Hypothesized about treating malignant brain tumors with cannabinoids
- April 2005: Discussed how cannabidiol could be used to impair the migration of tumor cells
- April 2006: Explored the signaling pathway that cannabinoids use to mediate tumor cell death
- August 2006: Examined which receptors, CB1 or CB2, mediate the cannabinoids that have antitumor properties
- April 2007: Showed how cannabinoids suppress tumor invasion and the formation of blood vessels in tumors
- August 2007: Further explored how cannabinoids can inhibit tumor growth
Since then, multiple studies continue to explore marijuana’s link to the prevention of tumor growth and the destruction of cancerous cells.
What Side Effects and Symptoms of Tumors Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Medical cannabis for tumors may help you manage nausea, pain and other symptoms that go along with malignant tumor treatments, which is just one of the reasons cancer is a qualifying condition for legal marijuana in a growing number of states.
Marijuana helped slower neuropathic pain when other traditional treatments were unable to.
A common side effect of cancer treatments is weight loss due to loss of appetite and nausea. The THC in medical pot was effective at stimulating appetite in cancer-related cachexia patients, decreasing their risk of unsafe weight loss.
Additionally, those taking THC treatment had an increase in appetite and reported their food tasting better.
You may have heard “laughter is the best medicine.” Marijuana for tumors treatment offers euphoric, relaxing and mood-boosting characteristics which many patients found beneficial to their emotional and mental health.
Cannabis also helps patients fall asleep quicker and stay sleeping longer. These characteristics in medical weed may dramatically improve the quality of life in cancer patients and those with other severe health disorders.
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for the Side Effects and Symptoms of Tumors
Unfortunately, for those patients who like to smoke the herb, it’s probably not the best method to use for cancer. But, you can still get the benefits of marijuana and tumors treatment when using it in other delivery methods. Below are some methods of using your medical cannabis treatment.
- Full-extract medical cannabis oil
- Raw dietary cannabis
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Tumor Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects
No matter what method you choose, below are some of the best cannabis strains for tumors.
Cannabis strains for cancer pain:
- Harlequin (Sativa)
- Chemo (Indica)
- Purple Kush (Indica)
- White Widow (hybrid)
Cannabis strains for nausea and vomiting:
- God’s Gift (Indica)
- Jillybean (Indica)
- Super Lemon Haze (Sativa)
Cannabis strains for appetite loss:
- Bubba Kush (Indica)
- Skywalker OG (hybrid)
- Granddaddy Purple (Indica)
Cannabis strains for depression:
- Super Silver Haze (Sativa)
- Pennywise (Indica)
- Chernobyl (hybrid)
Cannabis strains for fatigue:
- Strawberry Cough (Sativa)
- Pineapple Express (hybrid)
- Chocolope (Sativa)
Many medical cannabis patients like to use high doses of full-extract cannabis oil in hopes of reducing tumors and ridding themselves of cancer. Here are some cannabis strains worth considering for your cannabis oil:
- Pennywise (Sativa)
- Alien OG (hybrid/Sativa)
- ACDC (Sativa)
Take the Next Step in Obtaining Medical Marijuana for Tumors
Now that you’ve learned some valuable information on cannabis and tumors treatment, it’s time to decide if it’s right for you. Search for a medical cannabis doctor to receive your marijuana card, then find a dispensary to start this treatment for cancer. Once you book your appointment with a medical marijuana doctor, be sure to use our handy marijuana recommendation appointment checklist.