Cancer is a dirty word for everyone. It’s not something fixed with a bandaid and it never comes without a nasty band of sidekicks. Fatigue, depression, nausea, pain, and loss of appetite are all ways that cancer can affect a person’s life. Some of these effects may be due to the medications that are given to treat the illness itself, but others are simply part of having cancer.
Many cancer patients are turning to cannabis as a means to help relieve their pain and discomfort. These issues vary depending on the patient, but a specific set of side effects typically occurs.
According to the National Cancer Institute cancer is a “collection of related diseases.” In the case of all cancers, the cells begin to divide and spread to other organs and tissues. This spread can begin in any part of the body. In a normal, healthy body, cells regenerate and will replace old or damaged cells with new ones.
However, in the case of cancer, this cycle is disrupted. With cancer, the cells become abnormal and the old and damaged cells that are normally replaced don’t die. At the same time, new cells continue to be made even when they’re not needed. This result is an over-accumulation of cells which forms tumors. These tumors are typically a solid mass, except for the case of blood cancers, such as leukemias, which do not create solid tumors. These tumors can either be malignant or benign. The malignant tumors have the ability to spread to other parts of the body. This spread can happen around the area in which the tumor is located, or part of the tumor can break off and travel to other parts of the body through the blood. Benign tumors are ones that do not spread. Though these types of tumors are much less invasive than malignant tumors, benign tumors can grow to be fairly sizable. These are typically not life-threatening unless the tumor occurs in the brain.
Cancer cells seem to be the evil nemesis of normal cells. While normal cells work with the body to keep a certain healthy balance, cancer cells use the body to its own advantage. Normal cells will process signals from the body that tell them not to produce more cells or to kill off the unneeded ones. This is because the normal cells in our bodies all have a specific job. Cancer cells differ because they have no real function. Cancer cells, unlike normal cells, can disregard signals from the body that tell them to perform different functions. They can also influence normal cells and blood vessels to feed the tumors. Not only can cancer cells control other cells and blood vessels they can also manipulate the immune system. Instead of the immune system keeping our body free of disease, the cancer cells can actually prevent the immune system from destroying cancer cells. The cells also have the ability to hide from the immune system as well.
So what treatments are currently available for cancer?
Cancer is best cured when it is detected in the early stages. Some cancers, such as breast, mouth, skin, and testicle, can be found by doing a simple self-examination. A thorough physical exam by a doctor is needed once a lump is found.
After a diagnosis of cancer has been confirmed, the next step is to find treatment to get rid of cancer. This can come in a few different ways:
Surgery: Surgery is a very common treatment for cancer as the surgeon removes the affected tissue from the body altogether. This could be major surgery where you would need to be in the hospital overnight, or it could be a simple day surgery. This all depends on where the cancer is located and the size of the tumor. However, in some cases, surgery is not an option such as with cancers of the blood (leukemia) and lymphatic system. Also, if cancer has spread, surgery may not get rid of it all and therefore more treatments would be needed. In other cases where the tumor is located may present a problem for the surgeon since bleeding or delicate tissue damage could be a risk.
Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy simply means using anti-cancer drugs. There are currently over 100 different drugs, and more are being added to the list as time goes by. Doctors often refer to many of these drugs as cytostatic, which means cell stops. These drugs kill cancer cells and prevent them from producing more. Oftentimes chemotherapy is used in conjunction with other treatments as well.
Radiation therapy: Radiation or radiotherapy is typically done through x-rays. With this treatment, radiation is used to eliminate cancer cells by damaging the cells’ DNA. This is a fairly aggressive therapy and other healthy cells can be damaged in the process. However, our normal cells are typically good at healing themselves.
Hormone Therapy: Hormone therapy can help to slow or halt the growth of cancer. Due to cancer being sensitive to hormone levels, this means that cancer cells can use hormones to grow. With hormone therapy hormone levels are lowered, which can help to stop the growth of cancer. This isn’t true for all cancers, but with those in the breasts or reproductive organs, hormone therapy can be effective.
Stem cell and bone marrow transplant: Leukemia and cancers of the lymphatic system are often treated by stem cell transplants. With these cancers, there are often high amounts of chemotherapy with, at times, radiation. These therapies will more than likely kill the cancer cells, but they will also kill the stem cells as well. Stem cells are important for survival and oftentimes a stem cell treatment will be necessary by administering stem cells through a drip into the veins after a high dose treatment of chemo or radiation. These cells can be collected from you before treatment, or from a donor. Bone marrow transplants are performed with the same goal in mind: to replenish the body’s supply of stem cells. Anymore, patients receive a stem cell transplant more than a bone marrow transplant. This is because collecting from the blood is much easier than from bone. Also, more stem cells can typically be collected from the blood than the bone, and blood cell levels tend to go back to normal faster.
Whatever treatment your doctor decides is best for you will come with its own set of side effects. The recovery period from cancer can be an uncomfortable, painful and many times disheartening ordeal.
Cannabis has become an effective treatment for many patients who are battling the effects of cancer. However, not every plant is created equal. Some cannabis strains are bred for their THC, some for their CBD. Others are bred to have an equal amount of both cannabinoids. The right strain for you heavily depends on the type of symptoms you are needing to alleviate.
Cannabis for Pain Relief: When looking to treat pain with cannabis it is important to find a strain that is high in both THC and CBD. When these two cannabinoids work together pain relief properties are at their optimum levels. There are a few strains particularly good for pain.
Blackberry Kush: This indica strain has fairly high THC levels and can nip pain in the bud really quickly. However, along with that ability comes full-body relaxation which may leave you a little more high than you would like to be during the day.
ACDC: This is a popular strain used for pain that has won numerous Cannabis Cup awards. This hybrid cannabis strain has a higher amount of CBD, which is great for patients who aren’t keen on the psychotropic effects that THC carries.
Harlequin: This sativa strain has an equal amount of both THC and CBD which can really stop the pain in its tracks. It also has only a small high efficiency which helps for relief during the day.
Cannabis for nausea relief: Treating nausea with cannabis is best done through smoking or vaporizing. Strains with at least a little THC are also best to combat nausea.
Durban Poison: This strain offers quite the package. Along with providing relief for nausea, this strain can also give you a burst of energy and comes with a feeling of euphoria.
Sour Diesel: This is one of the most popular strains the world. Most if not all dispensaries should have this strain readily available as it is often used to help treat a collection of medical conditions including nausea.
Og Kush: This marijuana strain is high in THC which can lead to a feeling of euphoria in the patient. This is particularly good for night time use due to the psychotropic effects. However, it is very popular for those with a terminal illness who may suffer from nausea and vomiting.
Cannabis for loss of appetite: Cannabis is known for giving people the munchies. If you’re watching your weight, this might not be the best side effect for you. However, if you are suffering from a loss of appetite due to cancer, this could help you by keeping your appetite healthy. Strains that are high in THC are best at treating loss of appetite as the THC gives that ‘munchies’ effect.
Bubba Kush: This is one of the best choices for getting your appetite back. This can make you a little bit more relaxed than you want if you plan on being active, but this strain can no doubt help you to work up an appetite.
Sonoma Coma: This strain originates from Sonoma County in Northern California. It can give you a little burst of energy while helping you to work up an appetite as well.
Goo: This strain is one best used with a little bit of caution, as it has a fairly heavy body. It offers some very effective results when wanting to boost your appetite, but you may spend a little more time on the couch than you would like as this variety can put you into an intense state of relaxation.
Cannabis for depression: When choosing the best cannabis varieties for depression, it is good to note the smell of the plant. The terpene limonene is known to help with depression and will give off a citrusy smell. Certain strains are heavier in limonene than others.
Blue Dream: This is a popular mild strain that enhances creativity and socialization while decreasing stress and depression.
Sour Grape: This is a hybrid strain with an equal ratio of THC and CBD. This combination helps to ensure a calm body and mind without a clouding the brain.
Glass Slipper: This strain packs a punch and the effects can be strong and last for hours. It can aid in relieving stress, but be cautious when using this sativa strain. You could be down for a while if your dosage is too high.
Cannabis for fatigue: The sativa strain is best used for fatigue as this strain is particularly uplifting and can give you a good burst of energy.
Super Silver Haze: This strain has been around for over 20 years and is popular for providing energy that can effectively get you through the day.
Jack Herrer: This strain has long-lasting effects that can give you a big energy boost. This strain contains 18-24% THC which can kick things into motion pretty quickly.
Green Crack: The name doesn’t sound the greatest, but if you are suffering from fatigue this could be a great choice for you. This is known to provide a good balance of energy without keeping you awake a night which could help regulate a healthy wake-sleep cycle.
“Cancer Sucks” can be seen on bumper stickers across the country. This is because cancer does indeed suck. But the effects of cancer and cancer treatments don’t have to keep you down all of the time. If you’re looking for relief from the uncomfortable and often painful side effects of cancer you may not need to look any further than cannabis.
While many states offer cannabis as an option for cancer patients, it’s always wise to look into your state laws and educate yourself on medical marijuana. As always, consult a trusted physician to see if cannabis could help you.
For more information on the fighting cancer with cannabis read Claims that cannabis cures cancer need support of government and medical research research