Many people believe that cannabis can help relieve the symptoms of cancer. Some even believe that cannabis oil can cure cancer. Thanks to the many widely shared patients’ stories about medical marijuana in canada, cannabis for cancer isn’t a unusual idea. But, is any of this true? or are these stories hopeful thinking?
The Short Answer: Cannabis Doesn’t Cure Cancer
Unfortunately, cannabis isn’t a miracle cure for cancer. It may have many beneficial properties under investigation, but these have not yet proven to be the panacea we’ve all been waiting for.
In a petri dish, different cannabinoids target cancer cell lines. For example, cannabinoids can prevent the proliferation of cancer cells and migration through the body. They also seem to promote apoptosis, which is essentially cancer cell suicide. While there is no doubt that cannabis has some anti-tumoural benefits in the laboratory, these haven’t yet gotten to clinical trials in humans. Therefore, nobody can conclusively say that cannabis cures cancer.
The Rick Simpson Story
Part of the reason why so many people turn to medical marijuana in Canada to treat cancer is Rick Simpson. Simpson is the namesake behind Rick Simpson Oil (also known as Phoenix Tears). This is a cannabis concentrate made with high-grade grain alcohol. It’s thick as molasses and contains high levels of cannabis compounds like THC and CBD.
Simpson began using cannabis for therapeutic purposes in the 1990s for chronic pain. But in 2003, his doctors diagnosed him with skin cancer. After reading a preliminary study about THC’s anticancer properties, he decided to put his medicine to the test. Simpson used his Rick Simpson Oil topically and claimed his cancerous bumps reduced in size over the coming days. Eventually, they disappeared completely. In his opinion, this is proof that cannabis can cure cancer.
Although Simpson’s story is just one of hundreds (if not thousands) of patient recovery miracles, he is the most notable. Simpson believes he is living proof of the power of cannabis to cure certain diseases, like cancer. He was one of Canada’s first national cannabis heros, who has worked tirelessly to advocate for legal access to this plant medicine.
But Simpson’s story, while compelling, is not a scientific case study. There are just as many reports of patients treating their cancer with cannabis who don’t live as there are recovery stories. These tragedies don’t get the same attention.
Other patients, which have had their cases reported through scientific case studies, indicate that cannabis oil may reduce tumours. Again, these are case studies, not well-controlled research papers, but their reports are valuable intel.
According to a 2019 case study, “We report here a patient with adenocarcinoma of the lung who, after declining chemotherapy and radiotherapy, presented with tumour response following self-administration of cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive compound present in Cannabis sativa.”
The presenting authors conclude, “The data presented here indicate that cannabidiol might have led to a striking response in a patient with lung cancer.” It’s hard to ignore these individual patient stories.
What Cannabis Oil Can Do For Cancer
Just because weed doesn’t cure cancer doesn’t mean it’s not valuable during conventional cancer treatments. For example, cannabis comes with many therapeutic benefits that can improve other medications’ effectiveness or reduce their challenging side effects.
Here are a few examples of where medical marijuana in Canada can help with a cancer diagnosis:
- Anti Nausea and Vomiting Related to Chemotherapy
Medical marijuana has the unique ability to reduce nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy without also triggering more adverse reactions. This is one of the most established areas of research about cannabis oil and cancer. What’s more, many patients have a strong preference for cannabis-derived products over alternative solutions.
- Improved Appetite
Everyone knows that cannabis triggers munchies. But in a clinical setting, this can be very helpful, especially for patients losing weight and struggling with appetite during cancer treatment. Although the research isn’t as firm in this area, patients often prefer using cannabis to increase appetite over other pharmaceuticals. In one small trial, patients reported food tasted better, their appetite had returned, and physicians noted higher calorie intake during meals than with other drugs.
- Cancer-Related Pain Relief
A big area where cannabis oil can help cancer patients is in the pain relief department. Several recent and sweeping literature reviews have confirmed that in both cancer-related and non-cancer-related types of pain, cannabis helps. Importantly, it seems to improve the effectiveness of opioids, meaning that patients can reduce their opioid dose. Patients are also often satisfied with the pain-relieving properties of medical marijuana in Canada.
- Support During Palliative Care
Cancer patients facing the end of life often end up on extremely high doses of opioids because of their pain levels. This level of opiates ends up putting them into a stupor, with no ability to communicate. The value of cannabinoids to lessen pain and improve quality of life during these times is best described by a cancer physician who has witnessed this in practice.
According to Dr. D.I. Abrams, for Current Oncology, “Patients who have been put on high doses of opiates at the end of life by their well-meaning oncologist or palliative care team frequently feel totally unable to communicate with their loved ones in their precious remaining time because of altered cognition. Many have successfully weaned themselves down or off their opiate dose by adding cannabis to their regimen.”
Medical Marijuana in Canada, Can You Use it For Cancer?
Patients in Canada are much luckier than their American peers. In Canada, we have access to legal, medical marijuana for any condition we wish to treat. While not all physicians support treatment with cannabis for all diseases or all situations, you can always choose to take it.
According to Cancer.ca, “Health Canada’s Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations give people with cancer the option to use cannabis for medical purposes to help manage their symptoms and side effects.” This national organization focuses on treating side effects and symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments. They make little to no mention of cannabis oil to cure cancer or directly treat it.
If you are curious about cannabis oil for cancer, the first step is to speak with your oncology team or healthcare practitioner. Should they support medical marijuana in Canada for cancer patients, they are the best source of information. Otherwise, you will want to do your own in-depth research.
The benefits of cannabis, if used in conjunction with conventional treatments, are clear: pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea and vomiting suppression, and more. Will cannabis oil cure your cancer? This is unlikely. There is now a wealth of information available for patients seeking advice on cannabis oil for cancer. Do yourself a favour and read up before making serious decisions about your health.