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Cannabis And Cancer - Does Marijuana Help With Radiation Therapy?

Posted by Celine Kate on

Taking 8.2 million lives while incurring 14.1 million recorded cases in 2012, cancer is one of the deadliest disease our society is facing.

Becoming one of the most expensive illness, the estimated national expenditure for cancer-related healthcare amounts to $147.3 billion in 2017. This number stands for the United States alone.

The mortality rates of cancer are higher among males, affecting 196.8 in every 100,000 men. In women, 139.6 die out of cancer per 100,000 women.

But what makes cannabis linked to hundreds, even thousands of patients, admitting they are in cancer remission?

The Prelude to A Daunting Disease

Cancer begins when Apoptosis fails to take place. Apoptosis is the natural, biologically-programmed death of cells. Once this process begins to break down, cells continue to grow and divide. Consequently, these cells become excessive in number. It then leads to a colossal mass of abnormal cells.

Another cause of cancer can be gene mutations and genetics itself. Once a cell's gene mutation is not able to rectify DNA damage or ''kill'' itself, cancer starts as these cells multiply. Cancer also results from mutations that prevent oncogene and tumor-suppressing gene function, which leads to non-stop cell growth.

Free radicals from carcinogens can also be another horrifying factor of cancer. These free radicals are brought by stress, air pollutants, radiation and chemicals we ingest from food and water.

Once these are absorbed, it steals the electrons from other molecules in the body, leading to cell deterioration.


Cannabis and Chemotherapy

Recently, you may have heard about how many cancer patients are turning to the usage of CBD and THC (two by-products of cannabis) to alleviate their symptoms.

A 2014 study examined the effects of combined CBD and THC towards high-grade glioma, one of the most aggressive cancers in humans.  

CBD exhibited the ability to hinder glioma growth and neutralize oncogenic processes which prevent the rapid growth of cells. In this study, cannabinoid extracts are used in two ways, pure versus botanical drug substance. This study showed how Cannabis amplified the effect of radiation as a pungent treatment against brain cancer.

An earlier study first published in 2009 have shown how cannabis can improve the after-effects of chemotherapy. Powerful chemotherapy side-effects can cause discomforts, fatigue, loss of appetite due to the bland taste and kill other cells. The use of marijuana's major active compound THC for palliative treatment in forms of dronabinol and nabilone have significantly helped patients cope up. The THC effectively stimulated patient appetite, improved cachexia, relieved pain and lessened the severity of emesis.

Meanwhile, another study revealed cannabis' compounds ability to control the proliferation of liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), known as the third cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, is quite hard to combat.  

Scientists have found that Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) and a certain cannabinoid receptor can effectively reduce the growth of liver cancer and the carcinoma cell line. Δ9-THC triggers the death of glioma cells through ''switching on'' the ER stress pathway, promoting apoptosis- the naturally-programmed death of cells.

This way, the cells won't lead to an overgrowth.

CBD is also seen to interfere with the progression of breast cancer cells, with the potential of becoming one of the most effective inhibitors of the invasion and metastasization of human breast cancer, equally as potent as Δ9-THC.

Cannabis and Cancer Recovery

Cannabis has shown numerous helpful benefits for cancer patients. With the help of cannabis, cases of nausea, chronic pain and anorexia are diminished, including insomnia. Most patients also feel lesser anxiety.

About 25 percent of cancer patients use marijuana for the hopes of recuperating from the disease or keeping it at bay.

The 2014-2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.8% of adult users reported the use of cannabis for medical reasons.

Another survey spearheaded by Dr. Steven Pergam of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center unlocked new discoveries as they let patients from the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance answer a 44-item questionnaire. Out of 926 respondents, 70% of them consumed cannabis edibles or inhaled cannabis, while 40% of them used both methods to cure their disease.

With a growing number of studies and clinical trials showing cannabis' ability of alleviating cancer problems, will this be an eye-opener to the world of medical treatment?

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