Marijuana for Cancer

EssayDrugs
Jan 3, 2007

An essay is a written coursework that advances and discusses a message, argument, or idea. The purpose of an essay varies depending on the intentions of the writer. Many essays seek to inform the reader, in which case it is called an expository essay. This sample expository essay discusses the ways medical marijuana is used as part of cancer treatment.

The medical progress in the search for a cure for cancer is an ongoing pursuit. Up until today, there is no known absolute remedy to this most heart-breaking and life-altering disease. While there is a range of treatments available, these vary in effectiveness. Also, some forms of cancer are less responsive to treatment than others, thus further complicating the situation. In 2018, more than 1,700,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in the US and more than 600,000 were expected to die from the disease (American Cancer Society, 2020). Unfortunately, the numbers keep rising. Cancer also brings with it other related symptoms that require separate treatments. As research in cancer expands, more treatment modalities are being considered and integrated into practice, and one of these is the use of  medical marijuana . Thanks in part to the growing body of evidence that marijuana offers medical benefits to a variety of disorders and diseases, a considerable amount of marijuana stigma has been shed away. In fact, medical marijuana has been around for some time now, with practitioners using it to treat conditions such as Crohn’s diseaseAlzheimer’s disease, and even post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD . Thus, the question that emerges is: how can marijuana benefit cancer? There is no single answer to this question. The benefits of marijuana to cancer patients vary, but above all, it calms patients in spite of the hard-hitting disease.

Therapeutic Compounds in Marijuana

In order to understand how marijuana can help in treating cancer, it is important to first understand what marijuana is as a substance. Marijuana is a flowering plant with the scientific name Cannabis sativa , hence it being also widely known as cannabis. Marijuana has been growing since ancient times, with some evidence pointing to its cultivation as early as 3000 B.C.E. (Bridgeman and Abazia, 2017). It was used by ancient civilizations for a variety of purposes such as rope, fabric, medicine, and psychoactive agents. For example, there is evidence that Greeks, Roman, and Indians used it as a treatment as well as a substance for religious rituals (Clarke and Merlin, 2013). There are two main compounds found in cannabis: delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and cannabidiol or CBD (Clarke & Merlin, 2013). THC is the common agent that causes the “high” sensation. THC can also help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and can act as an antioxidant. Meanwhile, CBD counteracts the high sensation caused by THC and can also ease conditions like stress and anxiety (Bridgeman & Abazia, 2017; Reinarman et al., 2011). Apart from CBD and THC, there are other compounds found in marijuana that researchers consider as potentially therapeutic.

Marijuana in Cancer Treatment

Treating cancer requires a lot of endurance and patience. Because of the ongoing medical research for a cure for cancer, a patient must be open and willing to accept different methods of treatment. Chemotherapy is among the most common medical practices to treat cancer as it attempts to eliminate the cancer cell through drugs. Although many cases have shown that chemotherapy has an almost 50% success rate, it does not eliminate the fact that going through chemotherapy often implies difficult living conditions for most patients. Aside from common symptoms like hair loss, loss of appetite, and fatigue, chemotherapy can also bring health complications like diarrhea, mouth sores, and pain throughout the body (Kerr et al., 2016). However, studies have shown that marijuana can make a positive difference for patients undergoing cancer treatment.

Firstly, there is growing evidence that marijuana can help prevent the decline in the nutrition status of cancer patients. Chemotherapy often results in patients suffering from low nutritional status due to adverse effects like loss of appetite, nausea, and disruptions in digestive functions (Kerr et al., 2016). For instance, studies have shown that taking marijuana can help relieve a patient’s nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. A systematic review by Badowski (2017) determined that medical marijuana can help address these adverse effects in patients where conventional antiemetic medications have failed. In fact, the same review found that inhalation has a faster effect than oral medical marijuana. Note that THC and CBD are not the primary treatment for cancer; however, these compounds can be helpful to a patient’s recovery process as they guard patients against the associated effects of chemotherapy. Marijuana can also be used to treat pain among cancer patients. Cancer is notorious for causing severe pain in many patients. There are many instances when the pain becomes too severe that it no longer responds to conventional pain medications. However, multiple studies have shown that marijuana can relieve pain in a variety of cancers. For instance, neuropathic pain caused by damage to nerve cells can be difficult to relieve (Birdsall et al., 2016; Wilki et al., 2016).

Apart from supporting the nutritional status of cancer patients, there is also some evidence that marijuana can help treat cancer itself. Recent studies have found that compounds such as THC and CBD found in cannabis can slow down or even kill certain types of cancer cells (American Cancer Society, 2020). However, it is important to note that these studies were conducted in a laboratory rather than a clinical setting, and thus it is safe to presume that the developments are in their infancy. A great deal of research should be further conducted if marijuana’s potential is to be verified and unlocked. And thus the American Cancer Society supports the campaign to have further research into how marijuana can be a cure for cancer. The ongoing research on medical marijuana as a treatment for cancer provides hope for those who are yet to be free from the disease.

Individualized Care

While marijuana has the potential to be part of cancer treatment, it is vital to consult the doctor first before taking medical marijuana to treat cancer or its symptoms. Any medical decision over cancer treatment should be between the patient and the doctor. Proper information and background on the effects of medical marijuana on cancer should be discussed thoroughly to make a well-informed decision on the matter. It is also essential that the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the harm. Although there are medical benefits to the use of marijuana, there is also harm when taken past moderation and reaches the level of abuse. The use of medical marijuana as cancer treatment also depends on the patient’s type of cancer. If the patient has lung, testicular, or bladder cancer, then chances are marijuana will be more damaging than beneficial to the patient’s treatment.

Conclusion

There is no denying the convenience medical marijuana presents to cancer patients. Medical marijuana is not only helpful to cancer patients but also to other patients suffering from chronic pain. Cancer patients have suffered and continue to suffer because of the painful implications that come with the disease. Medical marijuana alleviates cancer patients’ pain and nausea when they are being treated through chemotherapy. It also helps with their anxiety and worries regarding their condition. As medical research continues, for now, marijuana can only be used to suppress the painful and exhausting symptoms of cancer and chemotherapy. Any advances in the field of medicine to treat cancer are being welcomed by patients and their loved ones who are hopeful that one day patients won’t have to suffer anymore.

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References

American Cancer Society. (2020 August 4). Marijuana and cancer . https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/complementary-and-integrative-medicine/marijuana-and-cancer.html

Badowski, M. E. (2017). A review of oral cannabinoids and medical marijuana for the treatment of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: a focus on pharmacokinetic variability and pharmacodynamics. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, 80, 441-449. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00280-017-3387-5

Birdsall, S. M., Birdsall, T. C., & Tims, L. A. (2016). The use of medical marijuana in cancer. Current Oncology Reports, 18(40), https://doi.org/10.1007/s11912-016-0530-0 

Bridgeman, M.B. and Abazia, D.T. (2017). Medical cannabis: History, pharmacology, and implications for the acute care setting. Pharmacy and Therapeutics, 42(3), 180-188.

Clarke, R.C. and Merlin, M.D. (2013). Cannabis: Evolution and ethnobotany. University of California Press.

Kerr, D. J., Haller, D. G., va de Velde, C. J. H., & Bauman, M. (2016). Oxford textbook of oncology. Oxford University Press. 

Reinarman, C., Nunberg, H., Lanthier, F., and Heddleston, T. (2011) Who are medical marijuana patients? Population characteristics from nine California assessment clinics. Psychoactive Drugs , 43(2), 128-35. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2011.587700

Wilkie, G., Sakr, B., & Rizack, T. (2016). Medical marijuana use in oncology: A review. JAMA Oncology, 2 (5), 670-675. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.0155

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