Does cannabis serve as a cancer treatment? Facts and myths

Cancer is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, and the search for an effective and safe treatment for cancer patients is a priority in the medical community.

In recent years, a wide variety of clinical research has observed that medical cannabis could be a great ally in the control of some cancer symptoms, but there have also emerged several myths and enthusiastic claims about the healing power of cannabis against cancer that are not entirely accurate.

What is cancer?

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by abnormal growth and uncontrolled dissemination of cells. Cancer can appear in any part of the body, invade surrounding tissue and metastasize to distant metastases in advanced stages of the disease.

According to the National Cancer Institute in the United States, the most common types of cancer are: breast, lung, prostate, colon and rectum, melanoma, bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancer, endometrial carcinoma, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer and hepatic carcinoma.

Myths of cannabis against cancer

One of the most widespread myths about cannabis is that it is capable of curing cancer on its own. However, there is no cure as such for all oncological diseases, especially when they are in advanced stages.

The reality is that everything will depend on the type of cancer suffered and the moment in which the diagnosis is made and the specific treatment is started. That is why it is essential to emphasize prevention through a healthy lifestyle and regular medical attention. This will allow for timely early detection tests.

The widespread spread of misinformation online and through social networks has favored the creation of fake news that talk about cannabis as the source of healing from cancer.

These news stories have also arisen from the legalization of cannabis for both adult and medicinal use and the increased interest in alternative or complementary therapies.

Realities of cannabis against cancer

Although cannabis does not cure cancer, there are studies that suggest its properties are useful as complementary treatments in various cases. Up to 70% of cancer patients present pain, as a consequence of the malignant disease and/or its treatment (e.g. surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy).

Conventional treatment of oncologic pain includes a multimodal strategy that seeks to control pain intensity and improve associated secondary symptoms (such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, lack of appetite, etc.) through various tools. These include opioid medications, interventional procedures, psychological and/or psychiatric therapy, physical conditioning, among others.

But, in certain cases, the lack of therapeutic effects and/or the presence of side effects associated with some of these treatments opens the door to other therapeutic options that safely complement and act as adjuvants in the management of symptoms associated with cancer. Such is the case of cannabinoids, which appear as an effective tool to be considered in specific cases.

It is essential to emphasize that, before starting a treatment based on cannabinoids, it is essential to make a complete assessment of the cancer patient. It should also be determined that there are no relative and/or absolute contraindications for therapy with cannabis-based drugs.

Conclusion

Although medical cannabis does not cure cancer, there is scientific evidence that supports its usefulness as a complementary treatment in certain cases.

It is important to debunk the myths that present it as a “miracle drug” and to continue research to determine its efficacy and safety in the treatment of cancer. The most important thing is that cancer patients have access to the best available treatments and receive the support and care they need to cope with the disease.