cbd oil side effects for cancer patients

CBD Oil for Cancer & Treatment Side Effects

Unlike THC, CBD does not make a person feel “high.” Read on to learn more about CBD, its potential uses for cancer patients, and tips on finding the right product.

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CBD Oil for Cancer & Treatment Side Effects

Cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming more popular in the discussion of treating cancer treatment side effects. So what is it?

CBD is a naturally occurring substance found in cannabis (marijuana). CBD is closely related to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that causes the psychoactive effects that cannabis is famous for.

Unlike THC, CBD does not make a person feel “high.” Read on to learn more about CBD and its potential uses for cancer patients.

Read below for more basics about CBD and cancer treatment.

Always ask your medical team when considering any alternative treatment.

How does CBD help alleviate side effects from treatment?

Dr. Rahul Khare says, “CBD is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help reduce pain and anxiety. Cannabis products can also reduce nausea and vomiting and support digestive health.

I’ve also recommended cannabis to patients who are struggling to maintain proper nutrition or experiencing a significant amount of weight loss during cancer treatment. Certain cannabis strains will spark an appetite and help in those circumstances.

CBD Researcher, Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD explains more of the science behind how CDB works in our bodies:

“The main side effect alleviated by cannabis and CBD is lack of appetite due to nausea. Our natural cannabinoid receptors are then manipulated by the substance to create homeostasis in our bodies, resulting in feelings of well-being.

By making the patient feel more relaxed and at ease, hunger will naturally manifest itself and nausea should subside once they have a bite to eat,” Djordjevic says.

If you’re struggling with side effects from treatment and are looking something other than prescription medications to alleviate them, CBD might help. Be sure you know your local laws and what’s allowed in your state.

Also, it’s always recommended to consult with your doctor before starting any new medication–naturopathic or otherwise.

Symptoms a patient might consider using CBD for include, but are not limited to:

  • Pain
  • Nausea & vomitting
  • Lack of appetite, or
  • Anxiety
Picking the right CBD product

CBD comes in several different forms. Do your research and speak with your doctor about what might be the best option for you.

For example, if you’re having pain, perhaps a lotion or bath soak is a good option. Many people choose to take CBD oil under their tongue.

“To find quality CBD and cannabis products I would recommend buying them for a legal and trustworthy source, such as a cannabis dispensary. However, I would suggest CBD instead of cannabis for cancer patients, since it can be more precisely dosed.

You can find full-spectrum CBD online through retailers such as Amazon, and administer a few drops sublingually every day to see how your body reacts,“ Djordjevic suggests.

“If you are considering CBD for symptom relief, be sure to purchase products from a reputable company that conducts third-party lab testing and makes those reports available to consumers. CBD is not currently regulated by the FDA, so product quality can vary dramatically.

Purchasing CBD from your doctor or a cannabis dispensary is the best way to ensure you are purchasing a quality product,” Khare says.

If you’re looking for a quality CBD product:

  • Ask your doctor if there is a source they might recommend
  • Go to a cannabis dispensary
  • Check packaging for third-party label testing
What are the risks of taking CBD for cancer treatment side effects?

It can be scary to try any new form of medicine or treatment. If you’re feeling nervous about trying CBD, that’s okay. You never have to force yourself to do something you don’t really want to do. If you’re interested in trying CBD, ask your doctor. They can give you great information in general and specifically for you and your health concerns.

“There is little risk associated with the use of CBD or cannabis for side-effects of cancer treatment. However, if too much is consumed, one could become anxious, paranoid or drowsy,” Khare says.

“Most people, including cancer patients, respond positively to CBD and there are no risks associated with using it, in my opinion. Provided the labeling instructions are followed, especially in regards to bodyweight and dosing, it’s perfectly safe to use,” Djordjevic says.

What are other cancer patients saying about CBD?

Carlos Colarte is a multiple myeloma survivor and proponent of holistic medicine in tandem with conventional treatment.

“Ginger tea and CBD helped a lot with my intestinal issues and the nausea. Whatever your thoughts are about CBD, ignore them and take it. It helps. My uncle was diagnosed with colon cancer last year. He was brought up to believe that marijuana is the most evil thing in the world, so he was against taking CBD.

He had some intense nausea, and after taking medications the hospital gave him, we suggested CBD. He would take a couple of hits, the nausea would go away, and he was able to eat,” Colarte says.

Stephanie Johnson, a breast cancer survivor, says, “I’m a big proponent of cannabis and CBD if you’re in a legal state. I don’t want to recommend that you break the law, but I will say I can’t imagine going through chemo without it.”

She also advocates CBD use to her friends for pain management. “I had a friend who was sick, and she couldn’t take pain meds very well. I brought her some CBD ointments and things so she could at least try to rest.

Being able to take my knowledge and skill set to help other people maybe find a product to help them get through cancer is amazing. To this day, it helps with my chemo-induced IBS, hot flashes, and neuropathy.”

Maui Bigelow was diagnosed with smoldering myeloma, a pre-cancerous condition that can shift to multiple myeloma. She turned to CBD as a supplement.

“I stopped taking a lot of crappy medicine. I started incorporating CBD oil into my regimen. I take turmeric and blackseed oil. I take some supplements. I take some Advil for the inflammation in my eyes, but that’s about it.”

Cheyann Shaw credited CBD and THC with helping her avoid a feeding tube. She was losing weight rapidly during treatment and found relief.

“In Seattle, marijuana is medical and recreational. My doctor prescribed me my medical card. She said it would help with my appetite. When I got down to 97 pounds, it was really hard to put on any weight. I started taking THC and CBD, and I think that’s what was making me able to eat.”

Medical cannabis reduces severity of symptoms for some patients with cancer, according to new study

A new study of more than 1,000 patients supports early evidence that medical cannabis may help reduce the severity of nausea, pain, insomnia and other side effects associated with cancer and its treatment.

The researchers from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Oncology Research Center at HealthPartners/Park Nicollet found that patients with cancer who enrolled in Minnesota’s medical cannabis program reported significant improvement in symptoms, including reduced anxiety, lack of appetite, depression, disturbed sleep, fatigue, nausea, pain and vomiting, within four months of starting the medication.

“It is encouraging to see this evidence that Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is helping cancer patients,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm. “In addition to helping people with qualifying conditions, the program was designed to help advance scientific understanding of the treatment potential of cannabis. These latest findings demonstrate that the program is making valuable contributions toward that goal as well.”

The analysis included data from 1,120 patients with cancer who enrolled in the Minnesota medical cannabis program between July 1, 2015, and Dec. 31, 2017. Using a numerical scale, the patients reported severity of eight symptoms prior to each medical cannabis purchase. Many patients achieved a reduction in the severity of symptoms and maintained that benefit for at least four months.

Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is particularly useful to researchers because it relies on manufactured, well-controlled cannabis products and includes a patient registration and survey process.

“Access to medical cannabis products has increased, even though there are only a few large studies that provide good data on its impact,” said Dr. Dylan Zylla, medical director of the Oncology Research Center at HealthPartners/Park Nicollet and co-author of the study. “This study shows us that some patients have a clinically meaningful response to using medical cannabis to control symptoms related to cancer or its treatment and the findings will help direct our future research.” The research was recently published in the Journal of Oncology Practice.

Nearly half of patients who experienced vomiting at the time of their cannabis certification reported the severity of vomiting reduced by more than 30 percent over the four months after their first cannabis purchase. Patients also reported any adverse effects that might be attributed to medical cannabis. Side effects were reported by 11 percent of patients, with tiredness, dry-mouth, and increased appetite being the most common.

“No other state medical cannabis program collects as much information on patients during their participation as Minnesota’s program, and this is a direct reflection of the program’s commitment to learning from patient experiences,” said Susan Anderson, MDH research scientist and co-author. “It’s gratifying to see the reported benefits and the relatively small degree of adverse side effects experienced by cancer patients.”

More than 30 states have legalized at least some forms of medical cannabis for various diseases. This increase in availability has prompted patients to ask their physicians about using these products. However, data shows that physicians generally feel unprepared to confidently guide their patients in using cannabis products. Zylla and colleagues, including MDH researcher Dr. Tom Arneson, published survey data in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, showing that 65 percent of oncology health care professionals supported the use of medical cannabis, yet 36 percent said they lacked confidence in discussing the risks and benefits of medical cannabis with patients. In addition, 85 percent of respondents wanted more education on the topic.

“The data is promising, but we need thorough, high-quality research like this to continue in order to fully understand both the risks and potential benefits of medical cannabis,” Zylla said. “Our patients with advanced malignancies often focus on quality of life. Finding safe, effective, cost-efficient ways to help them manage symptoms is paramount.”

Independent of MDH, Zylla and colleagues are also in the process of completing a randomized study of patients with advanced cancers to determine how medical cannabis affected pain control and opioid use. Preliminary results are expected in June.


Media inquiries:

David Martinson
HealthPartners Communications
[email protected]

Scott Smith
MDH Communications
[email protected]

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Many breast cancer patients are using marijuana and not telling their doctors

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Many breast cancer patients use cannabis to ease the symptoms of the disease and its treatments, but few tell their doctors, a new survey finds.

In an online anonymous survey of more than 600 adults with a breast cancer diagnosis, 42 percent reported using some form of cannabis for relief of symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, anxiety and stress, according to the report published Tuesday in Cancer.

“They are not using it to get high, but to manage the side effects of breast cancer or the treatments for breast cancer,” said the study’s author, Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org and an oncologist at the Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. “It can be a pretty rough ride. People are struggling to keep going and to have a reasonable quality of life.”

To take a closer look at breast cancer patients’ use of cannabis, Weiss and her colleagues sent a 47-question survey to 612 adults — 605 were women and five were men. The other two preferred not to answer the question about gender. All were recruited via Breastcancer.org and Healthline.com’s community.

While 39 percent said they had mentioned cannabis to their doctors, just 4 percent of the 306 participants who said they wanted more information had turned to their physicians for information on the drug. Most sought information from other sources, including websites or cannabis dispensary staff. Eighteen percent turned to a family member or friend. Most said they were unsatisfied with the information they received.

Out of the 42 percent who said they were using cannabis, 78 percent said they were using it for pain relief, 70 percent to help with insomnia, 57 percent to relieve anxiety, 51 percent to deal with stress, and 46 percent to stem nausea and vomiting. Most, 79 percent, said they used cannabis during treatment.

The respondents reported using multiple sources of cannabis: Seventy percent said they used edibles, and 65 percent liquids or tinctures. Just over half said they smoked and almost half used vape pens. They also reported using three to four different products, on average

“Few are telling their doctors about it,” said Weiss, “and many are getting information, as well as products, from family members.”


Health Heavy marijuana use during pregnancy linked to premature birth, early infant death

The majority of the participants, 70 percent, believed that cannabis should be viewed as a plant-based medicine, that natural products are better than “chemicals” and that the benefits of cannabis outweighed the risks. Moreover, 49 percent of the cannabis users said they believed that medical cannabis could be used to treat the cancer itself.

While acknowledging that cannabis can bring relief to breast cancer patients, Weiss is concerned that patients aren’t consulting with their doctors.

“Some of these products can interact with treatments they are taking, and there is a safety issue there,” she said. “We want to make sure they get relief from their symptoms without interfering with the treatments.”

One concern, Weiss said, is that the liver is involved in the metabolism of many of the treatments as well as of cannabis. “We don’t want to overtax the liver,” she said.

It’s also not currently known how cannabis interacts with treatments, she added.

The new study is “very interesting,” said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai West in New York. “Our patients have been using marijuana for cancer for years and years,” she added. “So we knew it helps with symptoms.”

The new report shows that “not a lot of patients are talking to their doctors about this,” Bernik said. And that means that the doctors can’t take cannabis into account when they are deciding dosages of cancer drugs, she added.

“It may alter the metabolism of these medications when getting the chemotherapy dosing is really important,” Bernik said.

More research is needed on cannabis use during cancer treatments to figure out interactions and dosing, Bernik said.

“It also points to the importance of patients being open with their doctors,” said Bernik. “And doctors need to specifically ask about it. They probably need to start the conversation.”

Linda Carroll is a regular health contributor to NBC News and Reuters Health. She is coauthor of “The Concussion Crisis: Anatomy of a Silent Epidemic” and “Out of the Clouds: The Unlikely Horseman and the Unwanted Colt Who Conquered the Sport of Kings.”