Many doctors also believe that cannabis is best used together with other forms of medicine, so don’t use this as an excuse to no longer see your oncologist.
Data from the journal Gynecologic Oncology Reports reveals that most gynecologic oncology patients find cannabis products to be either just as effective or even more effective compared to prescription meds that are aimed at reducing cancer symptoms.
Yale New Haven Hospital investigators polled 31 patients of gynecologic oncology about their medical cannabis consumption. A total of 74% of respondents were either undergoing immunotherapy or chemotherapy during the time of study. A staggering 83% of them reported that marijuana was effective for managing symptoms especially in the areas of insomnia, neuropathy, appetite, and anxiety while most of them also believed that its efficacy and safety was just the same or even better than conventional prescription medications.
“The majority of patients in our study felt that medical cannabis was equivalent or superior in efficacy to other medications (e.g. opioids, antiemetics, anxiolytics, and sleep aids) in relieving their symptoms… Of the subset of patients using medical cannabis for pain, 63 percent reported a reduction in opioid use… These data suggest medical cannabis may be a reasonable alternative or adjunct to medications frequently used for cancer or treatment-related symptoms,” concluded the authors.
No Surprise There
While there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds of ways to medicate with cannabis for a range of illnesses, it seems to be particularly effective for those dealing with the Big C.
And doctors are agreeing.
A 2019 study shared at the American Society for Clinical Oncology annual meeting revealed that a significant majority of oncology specialists believe that cannabis can help their patients. However, in the same study it revealed that medical providers weren’t confident in recommending the proper dosage to their patients, but this is a common sentiment among many.
Despite the ongoing challenges, there are clearly so many advantages to using cannabis for cancer treatment especially complementary to existing therapies including those that are approved by the FDA. Marijuana is well-tolerated and safe for a great majority and any adverse effects are rare. It helps cancer patients improve their appetite, deal with nausea caused by chemotherapy, and sleep well. These issues often arise among cancer patients who are undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.
The patients see the benefits as well, even if not all doctors are convinced just yet about its benefits.
“Physicians don’t usually advocate for the use of cannabis products, but if you ask patients, it’s astonishing the number of people who are already on them or are contemplating using them,” says Dr. Charu Agrawal, who specializes in palliative care at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. “Most patients say they heard about it from friends or family.”
There are certain things to be cautious about when using cannabis for cancer treatments, such as how it possibly reacts with medications the patient is already taking. For example, CBD tends to inhibit receptors that are responsible for metabolizing common drugs such as methadone, antidepressants, opioids, and statins which causes much higher levels of the medications in the blood.
“I tell my patients, you need to let us know if you’re on THC or CBD, just like any over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements,” says Agrawal. “Be open and honest about what you’re doing and how much.”
“We have to take away the stigma,” she said. “I will let my patients know what the evidence shows. But if a patient feels its helping them, I’m not going to tell them to stop taking it unless it interferes with treatment.”
Tips for Using Cannabis as Cancer Medication
If cannabis is legal in your state and you want to begin experimenting with it as medicine, why not?
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Opt for whole plant medicine. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound) and CBD (cannabidiol, non-psychoactive) are both equally famous components of cannabis. CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and vast array of health benefits though there are many other compounds in the plant that are just as beneficial. For example, there are terpenes and cannabinoids that can play an important role in supporting your healing and wellness while enhancing each others’ benefits.
And while THC is famous for giving you the high, it also has important medicinal properties that shouldn’t be overlooked. This is why it’s always better to medicate with whole-plant medicine instead of isolates because you will be missing out on the therapeutic benefits of the others.
Use cannabis as a complementary treatment instead of a cure-all. Studies show that while cannabis does help speed up healing for numerous illnesses, it’s best not to use it as a cure-all. Many doctors also believe that cannabis is best used together with other forms of medicine, so don’t use this as an excuse to no longer see your oncologist.
Be open to trial and error. For people who are new to cannabis, it takes a while to find out the delivery method, strain, and dose that works best for your specific needs. Don’t be afraid to try new things for as long as you experiment in the safety of your home, and make sure that you don’t do hazardous things such as driving if you’re new to it.
For fast results, vape. There are many ways to consume cannabis but for patients who require the quickest onset and results, vaping is the way to go. You can expect results in as little as 5 minutes, ideal for those struggling with chronic pain, nausea, or vomiting. On the other hand, if you’re after quick results, stay away from edibles which could take effect in as long as an hour, or even more.
Let your doctor know. This is extremely important; if they don’t feel confident prescribing cannabis to you, they could refer you to someone who is. You also don’t want to take the risk of the cannabis interacting with other drugs.