Medical cannabis can help treat symptoms associated with cancer and chemotherapy & radiation treatments, it is NOT a cure!
What symptoms can medical cannabis help with?
Nausea & vomiting
PAIN: A 2020 study showed that cancer patients using cannabis for 6 months had an increased quality of life, lower pain score and decreased opioid use.
INSOMNIA: Patients who used medical cannabis for sleep reported improved sleep initiation and continuity in a 2021 study. There were no patients who reported that medical cannabis was ineffective for sleep.
APPETITE STIMULATION: Clinical studies have shown that THC has significant stimulation of appetite and increased weight gain in both HIV and cancer patients.
NAUSEA & VOMITING: A 2021 study reported that a trial found that cannabinoids were as effective or more effective for nausea during chemotherapy than prescription antiemetics such as prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, haloperidol, domperidone.
Prescription medications / Pharmaceutical Cannabinoids
used for nausea due to chemo, may be effective for cancer anorexia
forms: capsule and oral solution
Used for nausea and vomiting in cancer chemotherapy patients with poor response to
Vaping or smoking is the fastest delivery route. Smoking or vaping cannabis may not be the safest choice for people with certain types of cancer, such as lung or esophageal cancer.
Edibles are the longest lasting.
What dose should I take?
The ideal dosage is one that alleviates symptoms without causing intolerable side effects.
Start low and go slow – take the lowest dose first, wait 20-30 minutes to see effect, and increase in small amounts if necessary.
What type of Cannabis can help with symptoms?
Pain and Neuropathy: balance of THC & CBD, Indica or Indica hybrid
Nausea & Vomiting: CBD dominant
Appetitive: THC dominant with low amounts of CBD, sativa (do not use THCv)
Anxiety and Mood: THC dominant, sativa
Energy/Motivation: CBD dominant or CBD/THC balanced, sativa
Insomnia: THC dominant, Indica
CBD can balance out the psychoactive effects of THC
Can Terpenes help?
Terpenes that stimulate appetite: b-caryophyllene, myrcene, limonene
Terpene that can help relieve pain: caryophyllene
Terpene that can help boost mood: Limonene, Linalool
Are there any drug interaction?
Ask your physician about your specific chemotherapy regimen.
Known Drug interactions:
Chemotherapy agents: etopocide and paxlitaxel blood thinners (warfarin) can increase the risk of bleeding.
Studies & Reviews
Many studies have shown that patients who used cannabis, needed less prescription pain medication.
In a 2019 study a significant number of oncologists reported to American Society for Clinical Oncology that they believe medical marijuana can help cancer patients
According to the article “integrating Cannabis into Clinical Care,” cannabis has many potential benefits at treating symptoms for a cancer patient. Cannabis is useful for chemotherapy induced nausea/vomiting, anorexia, pain, insomnia and depression.
Abrams, D.I. Integrating Cannabis into Clinical Cancer Care. Curr. Oncol. 2016, 23, 8-14. https://doi.org/10.3747/co.23.3099
“Currently, clinical evidence in populations with cancer is beginning to emerge to support the use of cannabis for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, pain, and chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy; data from other populations suggest that cannabis could be used to potentially alleviate gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, and sleep disorders”
According to a large, double blind study, TCH was as effective at prochlorperazine at treating chemo therapy induced nausea and vomiting. Patients who received THC also reported effects of relaxation, and more hunger.
Fairbanks, Lynn. Cannabis and Cancer Chemotherapy: A comparison of oral delta-9-thc and prochlorperazine. Cancer: 50:636-645 1982
“Current research shows that there is a potential role for medical cannabis in the treatment of cancer pain management.”
Alexia Blake1, Bo Angela Wan2, Leila Malek2, Carlo DeAngelis2,3, Patrick Diaz2, Nicholas Lao1, Edward Chow2, Shannon O’Hearn. A selective review of medical cannabis in cancer pain management. Ann Palliat Med 2017;6(Suppl 2):S215-S222
Medical cannabis may be used to treat multiple symptoms, such as nausea & vomiting, appetite stimulation, pain, and insomnia, instead of needing multiple medications for each symptom.
Ilana M Braun, MD, Donald I Abrams, MD, Stacey E Blansky, BS, Steven A Pergam, MD, MPH, Cannabis and the Cancer Patient, JNCI Monographs, Volume 2021, Issue 58, December 2021, Pages 68–77,
In lab studies, THC and other cannabinoids may slow growth and/or cause cell death in certain types of cancer cells.
In animal studies, certain cannabinoids have reduced the spread of specific cancers.
Many studies have shown that cannabis can help with symptoms of cancer but more research needs to be done to determine if cannabis can help control the disease.