Is Medical Marijuana Right for People With Lung Cancer? Here’s What the Experts Say

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Do you wonder if medical marijuana can help you feel better? You aren’t alone! Many people with lung cancer consider whether or not medical marijuana can make them feel better as a complementary therapy, alongside a prescribed treatment course. The answer is it certainly could… but like all diagnoses, it’s an individual matter and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that works for everyone.

From a medical standpoint, “there’s very little clinical data” on the topic, Dr. Edward Garon, a medical oncology and hematology specialist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, told SurvivorNet. “It is an area where there is some preclinical data, such as animal data, but not a lot of data on humans, that would be sufficient for clinical evidence for us to recommend it to people.”

So let’s break down how medical marijuana works, explore why it works, and what doctors say about it based on what they do know at this time.

It is important to understand why marijuana can be so helpful for symptoms of cancer and its treatments. First, it’s both an anti-inflammatory and a pain reliever. “When you take plant-based cannabis, marijuana, you’re decreasing inflammation, and you’re relieving pain at the same time,” Dr. Junella Chin, an integrative cannabis physician in New York, told SurvivorNet.

Dr. Garon says, “In general, we have always advised patients diagnosed with lung cancer, not to smoke anything.”

That’s because, she explains, humans have a natural cannabis system that our own bodies create. However, when a person is in chronic pain, the endocannabinoid system’s natural pain relievers aren’t enough. “So when we utilize phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant, we are actually replenishing our body’s own cannabinoid system. By doing so, it helps us deal with pain and inflammation much more effectively.”

Benefits of Medical Marijuana for Lung Cancer

Medical marijuana can be a helpful tool in combating the negative side effects of both cancer and chemotherapy. These include nausea, loss of appetite, pain, and depressed mood or anxiety.

“Medical cannabis, if you think about it, it’s the only botanical medicine that can help nausea, increase appetite, decrease pain, and elevate mood,” says Dr. Chin, noting that a lot of people who are undergoing chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment live in a state where medical marijuana is available and are using it for relief.

Some doctors will prescribe a generic version of marijuana, called Marinol, to treat these side effects. But Dr. Chin would rather use the real thing to help her patients. “That is much more effective in increasing appetite and decreasing pain for my cancer patients,” she says.

Why You Should Still Be Cautious

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