The Effect of Medical Marijuana on Chemotherapy Side Effects


The Effect of Medical Marijuana on Chemotherapy Side Effects

A standard treatment for cancer patients is chemotherapy. However, this treatment is a double-edged sword. On one hand, chemo is one of the most effective treatments for cancer. On the other, in addition to killing cancer cells it can attack healthy cells, such as those found in the stomach lining, causing patients to experience many adverse side effects.

One of the most common uses for medical marijuana in cancer patients is as a treatment for the side effects associated with chemotherapy. No one can doubt the improvements shown by chemo patients who use cannabis to alleviate, and sometimes eliminate, side effects.

If you or a loved one is undergoing chemotherapy, consider using medical marijuana to ease some of your pain. Cannabis has allowed patients to get the help they need and improve their quality of life.

What Is Chemotherapy?

The use of any drug to treat a disease could be called chemotherapy. However, when we hear the word, we automatically think of the drugs used to treat cancer. The primary purpose of chemo is to destroy cancer cells. If that’s not possible, chemo can help control the disease or ease cancer’s symptoms.

Surgery and radiation therapy are also used to treat cancer, targeting cancerous cells in a particular area. However, chemo works better for cancers that have spread to other parts of the body, or metastasized.

More than 100 drug options are available for cancer treatments. When patients get chemo, they’re often given more than one type of drug to ensure their cancer won’t become resistant to a particular type.

The drugs chosen and the schedule on which they’re given depends on many different patient factors, like type and stage of cancer, age and the patient’s overall health.

Chemotherapy Side Effects

Chemo involves drugs that target fast-growing cancer cells. However, other fast-growing cells can be affected by chemotherapy as well. Some of the healthy cells damaged by chemo are:

  • Bone marrow
  • Hair follicles
  • Mouth cells
  • Digestive tract
  • Reproductive system

The results of damage to healthy cells cause chemo’s worse side effect. These vary from person to person, and usually not all side effects are experienced. Severity also varies. After chemo treatments are completed, these usually go away. The most common side effects associated with chemotherapy include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Increased bruising or bleeding
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Infection
  • Mouth sores
  • Anemia
  • Nerve or muscle problems
  • Changes to skin and nails
  • Bladder issues
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in mood
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing (chemo brain)
  • Sexual issues
  • Fertility problems

Medical Marijuana and Chemotherapy

Cannabis has been shown to treat many of the side effects associated with chemotherapy. For patients struggling with the worst aspects of chemo, this allows them to live their lives and find enjoyment amid cancer treatments. Some of the side effects medical weed can help alleviate include:

  • Nausea. One of the most difficult chemo symptoms to control is nausea. CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound found in cannabis known as a cannabinoid. This, along with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), gives patients relief from nausea and vomiting. The reports are astonishing — this symptom is all but eradicated due to cannabis.
  • Nerve Pain. Medical marijuana is a well-known pain reliever. However, even neuropathic or nerve pain can be treated with cannabis medications. It also doesn’t change the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
  • Loss of Appetite and Weight. People joke about marijuana causing the “munchies,” which is good news for patients left with no appetite due to chemo treatments. This symptom can lead to anorexia in severe cases, so it’s important for cancer patients to keep their strength up and fight the illness. Marijuana typically helps patients eat food and keep it down.
  • Fatigue. Certain strains of cannabis allow for patients to have deeper and longer night sleeps. They wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

Other chemo symptoms that have shown improvement with the use of medical marijuana include:

  • Mood disorders
  • Constipation
  • Sexual function

Before you choose to use medical cannabis to battle the negative side effects you’re experiencing from chemotherapy, have a conversation with your doctor or a budtender at your dispensary to make sure it’s the right choice for you.

Information on Medical Marijuana & Cancer