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Can Medical Cannabis Help a Cancer Patient in Palliative Care?

By November 13, 2023No Comments
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Understanding Palliative Care

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness, such as cancer or dementia. Patients will receive treatment that addresses unwanted symptoms, sometimes alongside treatment that is intended to cure their illness. Palliative care offers patients a better understanding of their options when it comes to their treatments and medications. While symptom management is the primary purpose of palliative care, emotional and spiritual care are also an important part of making the patient feel as supported as possible. Palliative care is different from hospice care as patients in palliative care continue their treatment to battle their disease or illness.

Challenges in Symptom Management

Diverse symptomology can be a complicated issue, and in turn, can lead to polypharmacy (too many medications). These complex and numerous symptoms can include pain, nausea, fatigue, inflammation, bowel issues, anxiety, sleep issues, appetite problems, and more. Generally, patients will have a variety of healthcare professionals assisting with their palliative care. This can sometimes lead to the team not always agreeing on what is the most beneficial treatment plan for the patient. 

The Role of Medical Cannabis

Is medical cannabis the answer?

Medical cannabis has the potential to help with quality of life and improve serious unwanted symptoms that patients in palliative care experience. That said, medical cannabis is not always the answer and needs to be assessed by the patient’s healthcare team (and the patient themselves) to see if medical cannabis is the right fit to help manage symptoms.

Medical cannabis has the ability to help patients with both symptoms from their illness and side effects from other medications which can include nausea, pain, trouble sleeping, appetite suppression, anxiety, and more. In one study, medical cannabis was actually able to reduce the amount of other medications patients were on, as they found it helped manage symptoms effectively enough on its own. 

Can medical cannabis cure cancer?

Despite many anecdotal pieces stating that certain strains and regimens of cannabis use have helped battle and even cure cancer, there is still no concrete evidence that cannabis can help slow, stop, or reduce cancerous cells. While there have been some preliminary studies that show THC has the ability to slow cell growth and duplication, human studies have so far shown mixed results. 

Does medical marijuana really work?

Medical cannabis has been legal in Canada since 2001, and with good reason! Through hundreds of clinical research studies, medical cannabis has been shown to be a safe and effective option when managing unwanted symptoms from a variety of varying conditions. That said, medical cannabis is a personalized medication and isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. That’s why clinics like Apollo exist, where physicians who specialize in cannabinoid therapy can guide patients in terms of dosing, strains, ingestion methods, drug interactions, and more. Smoking cannabis is never recommended by doctors, especially for patients in palliative care. There are many alternatives, including ingestible options like oils and gel caps. 

Can medical cannabis help other conditions that require palliative care?

Yes, but it’s always recommended to consult with a physician or your healthcare team before beginning any new medication, including cannabis. Medical cannabis has been shown to help symptom relief in patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, and more.

Benefits of Cannabis in Palliative Care

How can marijuana ease and or lessen cancer?

Medical cannabis may help cancer patients manage unwanted side effects from the cancer itself or treatments like chemotherapy, regardless of what stage they are at. This is due to the endocannabinoid system in our bodies helping manage multiple functions. These include:

  • Pain Relief: Cannabis has analgesic (pain relieving) properties that could help relieve cancer-related pain which is common at advanced stages.
  • Sleep Assistance: Cancer patients often experience sleep disturbances. Medical cannabis is known to help both help people fall asleep and keep them asleep. This ties in with assisting with pain and anxiety relief.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Treatments like chemotherapy can cause severe symptoms of sickness. Research has shown that manipulation of the endocannabinoid system regulates nausea and vomiting in humans and other animals. Medical cannabis has been shown via research studies to ease nausea symptoms within minutes.
  • Appetite Stimulation: The endocannabinoid system helps govern appetite, and can increase the desire to eat and even how much we enjoy the food we eat (the perception of taste). 
  • Anxiety and Depression: A cancer diagnosis can take a big toll on one’s mental health. Medical cannabis has been found to assist some in managing their anxiety and depression symptoms.

With all the benefits listed, it’s important to note that success is very dependent on dosage, product type, strains, and more. This is why we always recommend working with a healthcare practitioner or a clinic such as Apollo. At Apollo, we work with your healthcare team to ensure you are utilizing your medical cannabis to be the most safe and effective plan possible.

How does cannabis oil help with cancer treatment?

Ingestible oil is an effective way to take medical cannabis. Cannabis oil can help with managing cancer-related symptoms as it is long-lasting (6-12 hours), easy to dose, and consistent in terms of mg/ml. When ingested, the cannabinoids are distributed throughout our body via the bloodstream after being digested, absorbed, and put through “first-pass metabolism” in the liver. 

Does medical marijuana (MMJ) help with pain?

Yes, it can! Apollo’s own published research study had a total of 751 chronic pain patients who initiated medical cannabis treatment at Apollo Cannabis Clinics. After following Apollo’s personalized treatment plan, patients reported a 43% reduction in pain interference with their daily activities and a 37% reduction in the severity of their pain. The patients in the study also reported significant improvements in mental health after initiating treatment.

Why could medical cannabis not be used for some patients?

Nothing is ever a simple answer when it comes to a serious illness like cancer or Parkinson’s Disease. Ontop of that, medical cannabis is a very personalized medication – not just a “take 1 pill every day” type of drug. There may be a number of reasons why medical cannabis isn’t right for a certain patient, including their past medical history, other medications they are on, and even side effects of the medical cannabis itself. Our healthcare team works closely with our patient’s doctors, nurses, and caregivers to ensure medical cannabis is a good option for that patient, and it is being administered in the most effective and safe way possible. 

How Do I Bring Up Medical Cannabis To My Doctor For Cancer and Chemotherapy Relief

Speaking to your doctor or healthcare team about medical cannabis can seem intimidating, but the best thing is to do your research and discuss with them why you think it could be a positive potential treatment option. Be sure to be open to their opinions as well, as they also want what is best for you. While we don’t require a referral to be seen at Apollo Cannabis Clinics, we do appreciate them as it allows us to keep your physician up to date and in your circle of care. If you have any questions or would like to book a free virtual appointment with Apollo, click here

Apollo Cannabis

We are a research clinic and doctor's office that specializes in cannabinoid therapy (medical cannabis treatment). We have published our own peer reviewed clinical research study on the use of medical cannabis for pain management. Our team of doctors, nurse practitioners, and patient educators have helped over 100,000 Canadians. We are here to help educate, support, and provide relief.

Get medical marijuana legally to treat ADHD, Anxiety, Pain Management, and More

Bodystream has merged into Apollo as of May 1, 2023, and here at Apollo we are looking forward to welcoming all new and existing Bodystream patients for free appointments with a medical cannabis healthcare practitioner.

Bodystream has merged into Apollo as of May 1, 2023, and here at Apollo we are looking forward to welcoming all new and existing Bodystream patients for free appointments with a medical cannabis healthcare practitioner.