cancer and cannabis treatment

Cannabis and Oncology: Overview

A new era has arisen in the medicinal cannabis world with the use of cancer treatments and symptoms. With new regulations opening in Canada and around the world, cannabis is becoming more easily accessible to patients who are desperate for a new approach for the devastating effects of cancer. Unfortunately, even still in 2016, physicians are still lacking knowledge on medical cannabis, cannabinoids, and the endocannabinoid system to educate patients on. One of the well known uses of cannabinoids is cancer symptom management. Meaning, it has been found to be useful for patients undergoing canacer treatments such as chemotherapy. It helps with symptom relief such as: nausea/vomiting, appetite stimulation, pain, depression, and sleep.  Some patient feedback has also indicated that cannabis can be used as an anti-carcinogenic.

Nabilone (cesamet):

Cesamet is a medicine for nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy. It is used when other drugs have not been able to control these symptoms. The scientific name of Cesamet is Nabilone. Other nausea and vomiting drugs usually do not have this kind of side effect. Cesamet works in your brain. You might feel dizzy, sleepy, “high”, uncoordinated, anxious, confused, or depressed while taking Cesamet. You might also hear or see things that are not real. Cesamet can make your heart race or blood pressure drop.  Ask your doctor about this if you are older or have high blood pressure or heart disease. In scientific studies, most patients who took Cesamet had at least one side effect. The most common side effects were sleepiness, dizziness, dry mouth, a “high” feeling, an uncoordinated feeling, a headache, and problems concentrating. Dosages can include 0.25 mg, 0.5 mg, 1 mg bottles that should be taken in the evening or before bed due to drowsiness. Onset is 60-90 minutes and can last 8-12 hours. Although Nabilone may have side effects, I have personally seen patients use it and find a relief in pain, sleep and appetite stimulation. Some patients do not feel any effect and others fins it so effective they ask to stay on it. Nabilone is usually given to patients under-going cancer treatments or cannabis naive patients due to its milder form of synthetic THC found in it.

Side Effects:

Cannabis is known for its many therapeutic effects. Some of these include: mood elevation, an analgesic, appetitive stimulator, drowsiness/sleepiness, euphoric effects, muscle relaxant, decrease intraocular pressure, anti-carcinogenic, anti-nausea, anti-epileptic, and anti-anxiety. On the flip side many of these therapeutic effects can be seen as unwanted side effectsdepending on the indication. A 62 year old patient who has chronic pain may not like the increase of appetite or euphoric effects but may like the increase of sleepiness and pain relief. A 32 year old patient who has anxiety and depression may like the increase of appetite and euphoric effects but not like the sleepiness. It all depends on the indication and strain variety being used. Education is a big component!

Cancer Cachexia:

Cancer Anorexia Cachexia is loss of muscle, and fat. The weight loss is involuntary, meaning that there is no desire or attempt to lose weight. Patient experience muscle wasting, loss of appetite a poor overall quality of life, and experience pain and fatigue. It also becomes more difficult for them to perform regular daily activities. Moreover, cancer anorexia-cachexia, at least in the more advanced stages, cannot be fully cured by eating more or by taking nutritional supplements. Cancer Anorexia Cachexia usually gets worse over time as weight loss increases, which also leads to difficulties for patients with everyday activities. In the early or mild stages, patients may only notice a slight loss of appetite with little weight loss. As the condition gets worse, individuals will notice more weight loss and often eat even less. In severe stages, muscle wasting becomes obvious and the condition may be resistant to normal treatments such as dietary supplementation and nutritional support.


cannabis and cachexia

With this being said, medical cannabis can help treat the cancer cachexia due to appetite stimulation which can lead to an increase in weight gain. It can also help with pain relief to enable activity to build muscle. Nabilone can be a good option but dried cannabis may be more beneficial. This is due to all the cannabinoids acting together called a “entourage effect” to give the most therapeutic effect. Speak to your physician about medical marijuana as a possible treatment option today.


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