What to know about cannabis + cancer
According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly one in every two Canadians is going to get cancer at some point in their lifetime. Now, half of these cancers can be prevented, and options for early detection and treatment are improving all the time. But the facts remain – this disease touches everybody.
A bit of good news? Cannabis is turning out to be kind of a superhero when it comes to cancer. As gains are being made in legalization and research, we’re learning more and more about its ability to address symptoms associated with cancer treatment, as well as its potential to combat the disease itself.
Chemotherapy and radiation are still some of the most effective cancer treatments available, but for many patients they cause nausea and vomiting, sometimes to a debilitating degree. Cannabis can help calm those side-effects thanks to the reported ability of cannabinoids to trigger anti-emetic responses when faced with toxins. This makes for a more comfortable and restful recovery, and allows a patient to keep eating – a serious concern for many people in treatment.
Cannabis offers non-opioid generalized pain relief to cancer patients; that’s great news for people who don’t want to risk becoming addicted to pain pills, or be subjected to their reported side-effects. For people in end-of-life care, avoiding opiates means they can be more present with themselves and their families – a real gift when so much is being taken away.
For pain that’s localized, cannabis-infused topicals and transdermal patches are options for delivering pain-relieving THC right where it’s needed, while minimizing the psychoactive effect. (That means fast relief without the ‘high’ associated with cannabis use.)
There’s no way around it – dealing with cancer is awful. The uncertainty, or in some cases too much certainty, of what lies ahead can be overwhelming, and often leads to depression.
Cannabis can provide relief. While it doesn’t fight depression for everyone (and it’s important to be mindful of how it affects us all differently), for some it can be extremely helpful. THC has been shown to stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the reward and pleasure centers of the brain.
Since studies have shown that happier, more optimistic patients have better outcomes fighting other types of illness and disease, it stands to reason that successfully treating depression with cannabis could aid in recovery.
Slowing or Stopping the Spread of Cancer
Beyond palliative care, it’s been said that cannabis can actually slow or stop the growth of cancer. More and more studies are being conducted on the effects of cannabinoids on cancerous cells, and the results are very promising.
It’s hard to believe that a plant that provides such calming and positive benefits can also be such a badass when it comes to fighting disease, but nature is pretty awesome. Here’s hoping that more scientific and legislative advancements will provide those in need with relief and a ray of hope.
Story by Grace Per Lee
Illustration by Marlo Hwang
Van der Pop does not condone or endorse the illegal consumption of cannabis.