Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Most states with a medical marijuana program allow patients to seek cannabis treatments for cancer. It affects millions — not only the patients diagnosed with the condition, but the families and friends fighting side-by-side with their loved ones.
Medical marijuana has been shown to treat many symptoms associated with cancer, including the side effects of cancer treatments. However, recent studies indicate that cannabis could target the actual cancer cells directly. More research is required, but medical marijuana could be significant in finding the cure for cancer.
The tiny human cell is the building block of our entire body. Whenever new cells are needed, old ones die off and new ones are created to take their place. Cancer causes this system to be out of whack. Old cells don’t die, and new cells are formed even when they’re not needed.
These mutated cells contain damaged DNA that continues to get copied. These cancerous cells multiply faster than healthy cells, which causes tumors to form.
There are more than 100 types of cancer, from lung cancer to skin cancer. Usually, a specific type of cancer is named after the part of the body where it began.
Cancer causes patients to experience debilitating symptoms. Even cancer treatment can have unwanted and uncomfortable side effects. Marijuana can either alleviate or eliminate many of these, which improves a patient’s quality of life and allows them to fight the disease with all their strength. The most common symptoms treated by cannabis are:
Because marijuana is banned by the federal government as an illegal substance, only limited research exists exploring its medical possibilities. However, as more states legalize it for certain conditions, studies indicate that it has potential we never dreamed of: Cannabis may even fight cancer.
The human body contains cannabinoid receptors throughout that make up our endocannabinoid system. This system ensures our body maintains a healthy stasis. It also acts as a bridge between our body and our mind. If something is wrong, like the growth of cancerous cells, the endocannabinoid system gets out of whack.
Marijuana helps this system regain balance since the plant is made up of cannabinoids. These compounds — like THC and CBD — mimic our own cannabinoids, which is why our body reacts so strongly to cannabis and why we receive many health benefits from it.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has performed animal studies with surprising results. Cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth without killing healthy cells, an adverse side effect of many conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Medical marijuana works to fight cancer in three main ways:
More research is required in this field. However, initial findings are favorable. We could be seeing cancer treatments involving medical marijuana in the not-so-distant future.