At its most basic, cancer is when your cells grow abnormally. It is also known as “malignancy” and encompasses over a hundred different types. Symptoms vary according to which type of cancer you have, as does the treatment method. The effectiveness of cancer treatments also varies according to many determining factors, and certain kinds of cancers are more deadly than others.
What Causes Cancer?
There has been plenty of discussion about all the supposed causes of different types of cancer, but it is well known that not all of these causes are legitimate or proven. For example, there is some hype about artificial sweeteners increasing a person’s risk for cancer. However, that has not been proven or even linked in humans. A similar claim is that cell phones cause cancer, although this has not been proven or disproven. Other unproven “causes” of cancer include bottled water (BPA), dental fillings, deodorants and antiperspirants, fluoride, and other household products. Again, these have not been proven.
Some other causes of cancer are considered legitimate. This includes exposure to radiation (such as with X-rays), but usually, it only applies to high exposure. If you are being X-rayed, you are covered in a lead blanket so that your exposure is minimal (and generally considered safe). Eating too much meat could increase the chances of getting colon cancer, and preservatives in meat (“nitrites”) cause cancer as well. Besides smoking, air pollution also causes lung cancer.
Types of cancer
There are more than a hundred different types of cancer, making it impossible to cover them all here. There are a handful of types of cancer that are more common than the rest, however, including breast, lung, skin and colon cancer, leukemia (cancer of the blood), and prostate cancer.
Symptoms of cancer
Although there are many types of cancer, it is important to know the warning signs and symptoms of different types of common cancers. The trouble with cancer is that there are so many different types, and many of their symptoms are common symptoms of non-life-threatening ailments such as a cold or common infection. It is important to know the symptoms anyway. Some of the following symptoms could mean you have cancer:
- Skin changes, such as spots or moles (skin cancer)
- A nagging cough, especially if it includes blood or won’t go away (lung cancer)
- Breast changes, such as lumps, pain, or discharge (breast cancer)
- Bloating, especially combined with fatigue, back pain, or weight loss (ovarian cancer)
- Problems urinating - men (prostate cancer)
- Swollen lymph nodes (lymphoma or leukemia)
- Bloody stool or urine (colon cancer, kidney or bladder cancer)
- Testicle changes, such as a lump (testicular cancer)
- Problems swallowing (throat cancer or cancer of the esophagus)
- Unusual vaginal bleeding (cancer of the cervix, uterus, or vagina)
- Mouth problems, including canker sores, bad breath, or red or white patches (oral cancer)
- Weight loss, especially rapid (cancer of the lung, esophagus, pancreas, or stomach)
- Fever that won’t go away (blood cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma)
- Heartburn or indigestion, especially ongoing (stomach cancer)
- Consistent, unexplainable fatigue (leukemia, colon cancer, or stomach cancer)
Current treatments for cancer
Treatments such as chemotherapy are commonly used to treat various forms of cancer. Chemotherapy involves the destruction of harmful cancer cells through the use of drugs and is often combined with radiation therapy, surgery, or biological therapy. The trouble with chemotherapy is how harmful its side effects are. Fatigue, digestive issues, weight loss, hair loss, and nausea are all common side effects of chemotherapy.
The problem with present-day cancer treatments is that, even though they are trying to do as little damage to healthy parts of the body as possible, they still often end up causing lasting harm to individuals receiving the treatment. Despite this harm, the treatments aren’t always effective.
CBD and cancer
Most people know that medical marijuana can have some serious health benefits. But could it possibly also be used to treat cancer? Because of the ineffectiveness of conventional treatments for cancer, it’s no surprise that people have begun considering the potential benefits of medical marijuana and other alternative treatment options.
The great thing about using medical marijuana is that it doesn’t come with the dangerous side effects that other cancer treatments do. It won’t drastically lower a patient’s quality of life the way chemotherapy and other treatments will, and some evidence shows that it might be just as effective (if not more effective) than the conventional routes of treatment.
Medical Research on Medical Marijuana and Cancer
Although it’s far from being completely accepted as a legitimate option in mainstream culture, there have been some studies that have shown the incredible benefits of using medical marijuana for cancer treatment. Several studies have shown some very promising results.
For example, in February 2015, a study showed that marijuana users had a 45% lower rate of bladder cancer than non-marijuana users. This study tracked men between the ages of 45 and 69 years old over the course of 11 years. Of the 279 (out of the 34,000 studied) who developed bladder tumors, it was concluded that there was a 45% reduction in the risk of bladder cancer in the men who used marijuana but not tobacco.
Another preclinical study, run by the National Cancer Institute, showed that marijuana has antitumor effects. Specifically, the cannabinoids in marijuana have antitumor effects. This study indicates that the development of cells and the blood vessels that tumors need are blocked, and harmful cells are even killed. Colon inflammation might be prevented, reducing the risk of colon cancer, and antitumor activity took place in cases of breast cancer and colon cancer, among other things. Of course, these are preclinical studies only done on rats and mice, but they are certainly promising in terms of how medical marijuana may affect humans with cancer.
Even more studies are considering the role of marijuana on the treatment of cancer, such as one that looks at the use of nabilone to treat iatrogenic emesis.
Patients undergoing cancer chemotherapy often suffer undesirable side effects. They react to some anti-cancer drugs that make further treatment harder. Some of the drugs they react to are the best life-saving meds for their conditions.
These side effects include nausea and vomiting among other chemotherapy-induced situations. However, pharmacologists are looking toward using nabilone as a final resort for treating iatrogenic emesis, otherwise known as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV).
Nabilone is one of the compounds found in medical marijuana. Cannabis contains up to 500 synthetic compounds, among these is the popular psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
In this study, researchers showed that nabilone is an effective cannabinoid receptor agonist to help treat CINV where other options have failed. The legal status of marijuana in the US and North America is, however, hindering complete access to nabilone and THC among other effectual marijuana components.
Apart from possible use for treating CINV, nabilone is also being considered for addressing prophylaxis. This is to prevent diseases that would otherwise require drugs that produce undesirable side effects.
Clinical trials support the action and safety of nabilone as a cannabinoid receptor agonist for treating a wide range of related conditions. The pharmacological review of nabilone is ongoing, and it is quickly becoming the compound of choice in treating CINV.
Can cannabinoids really treat cancer?
Are there clinical hopes that marijuana compounds can be used to fight off or treat cancers and its symptoms? The answer to this question comes with increasingly positive aspects. Marijuana contains up to 500 cannabinoids, and these increasingly show treatment prospects for cancer.
Cannabis is used as a recreational and medical drug in many countries. This attracts a great amount of legal attention everywhere. But, clinical trials conducted by pharmacologists find cannabinoids in marijuana could be effective against cancers of various types.
People that use cannabis sativa for recreational purposes do so because of its euphoric effects. Those who use it for medicinal purposes do so for its therapeutic properties. Some of the compounds of cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and nabilone among others.
CB1 and CB2 are effective binding receptors of cannabinoids and potentially effective against cancer cells. These cannabis compounds have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells by making them unable to metastasize and by preventing neo-angiogenesis.
Apoptosis is created via the action of cannabinoids to fight cancer cells. What this means is that cannabinoid agents generate a cellular machinery where healthy cells eliminate unhealthy cells that could be cancerous.
Although the studies suggest cannabis can be used to treat cancer, it must, however, be cautioned that cannabinoids can repress the immune system, leading to the proliferation of tumor cells. Therefore, more clinical studies need to be conducted to develop cannabinoid agents that are perfectly safe in preventing and treating cancers in all classes of patients.
Medical Research on CBD and Cancer
Of course, the part of marijuana that has these healing effects are the cannabinoids. This includes THC, the cannabinoid most commonly sought after for recreational use, as well as CBD, which is more often associated with medical marijuana. CBD, in particular, has been shown to help with a wide variety of ailments, and cancer is no exception.
Luckily, studies are being done to look further into this as well. One study from 2011 shows that CBD actually kills off breast cancer cells -- without also having the harmful effect of killing healthy cells off (a common side effect of conventional cancer treatments). While this study was specifically done on breast cancer cells, it bodes well for other types of cancer as well.
Even an organization that typically considers marijuana to be a harmful drug, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has admitted that marijuana has antitumor properties (especially CBD). This was specifically in relation to a more aggressive type of brain tumor, citing evidence that the tumor was shrunk by CBD.
CBD vs. THC
As mentioned above, cannabinoids are the reason medical marijuana can be such a useful medicine. Cannabinoids are naturally absorbed into our bodies by receptors of the endocannabinoid system. While THC and CBD are the most common and best-known cannabinoids, they are far from being the only ones in marijuana plants -- there are a minimum of five others contained in this useful plant.
CBD can reduce inflammation, balance emotional disorders, benefit the gastrointestinal system, and ease neurological ailments. It is a pain reliever and potentially even a cancer cell killer. CBD does not have the “high” effects that THC does in recreational marijuana, making strains with higher CBD levels and lower THC levels appealing for those only using it for medical purposes.
How to take medical marijuana for cancer
While the best-known way of taking marijuana is smoking, this is far from the only option available. In addition to smoking, vaporizing can be a similar alternative to achieve fast acting relief. The heat required to smoke or vaporize marijuana can lessen the medical benefits, however.
The good thing about vaporizing is that it takes away any of the negative side effects that come with smoking anything. This is because the heat involved in a vaporizer is not as high as with smoking.
CBD oil to treat cancer
While medical marijuana isn’t allowed everywhere, generally states that have any laws allowing for medical marijuana will start with CBD oil to treat specific ailments. CBD oil can be infused into a variety of ways of taking marijuana, including edibles, pills, and tinctures.
Edibles can take the form of sweets, or they could be anything cooked with CBD oil. Tinctures are fast-acting and can be dropped directly on the tongue -- just a drop or two will give relief in a short amount of time. CBD oil is also used for the liquid put into a vaporizer and can be inhaled that way for fast-acting relief.
Grow your own cancer medication
Because medical studies have started to show that marijuana can have some amazing effects on cancer, it makes sense to many to grow their own marijuana plants, so they know exactly what type of strain they are growing and where exactly it comes from.
Cannabis sativa, for example, can relieve pain, increase mobility, and help patients sleep better. It’s also a natural source of CBD. If you grow your own Cannabis sativa, you can have this relief whenever you need it.