Cannabinoids & Cancer
By Elisabeth Mack, RN, BSN, MBA
“Don’t ever use cannabis if you have cancer – you’d have to be nuts!”
“Don’t ever use chemotherapy if you have cancer – you’d have to be nuts!”
Two popular answers to the same question. “What should I do to treat my cancer?”
Happy Fall, and welcome to October, the month to raise awareness about cancer and to encourage people to get educated about their options for treatment. There are hundreds of different types of cancer found in people, and 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women could develop some form over their lifetime. The American Cancer Society publishes guides for men and women offering tips to prevent cancer. Their reporting concludes more than 40% of cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone avoided tobacco, kept a healthy weight with a healthy diet, got enough physical activity, limited alcohol, protected their skin from too much sun exposure, got vaccines against cancer causing viruses, and got their screenings.
Cancer is a disease where sick cells multiply and spread, stealing nutrients from other areas, and cutting off normal functioning. Whether progression is fast or slow, the immune system has failed to protect us, and we must repair that dysfunction. As we carefully evaluate our options, there is a lot to consider. Each treatment has pros and cons and affect people differently:
Surgery, Radiation Therapy, Chemotherapy, Hormone Therapy, Targeted Therapy, Immunotherapy, Stem Cell Transplant, and Clinical Trials. All have side effects and that’s where we usually start with our patients – how do we manage the side effects?
Cannabinoids from the cannabis plant can help in several ways as the nutrients from the plant mimic the body’s own endocannabinoids, restoring and supplementing our system if we are deficient. Pre-clinical data show that phytocannabinoids can fight cancer in 4 ways:
- Apoptosis – killing tumor cells by triggering the off switch and allowing cell death
- Angiogenesis inhibiting – stopping tumor cells from getting nutrients
- Antimetastatic – stopping the spread by altering the genes that replicate it
- Palliative – helping combat side effects from conventional treatments and treating symptoms of cancer directly. There is so much anxiety, pain, nausea, depression, changes to energy, appetite, and to our existential self that we need help coping.
CBD helps protect and restore our endocannabinoid system by boosting our own natural cannabis compounds, soothing our nervous and immune systems, and quieting inflammation. THC activates the CB1 & CB2 receptors directly which impacts cell signaling and communication restoring balance or homeostasis. Cannabinoids can even help prevent nausea and neuropathy caused by chemotherapy when taken concurrently.
The best options put the patient in the driver’s seat allowing them to make informed decisions with education and intuition about their treatment. People need to talk through the variables with trusted advisors who have deep resources, and then proceed cautiously with frequent adjustments. Getting back to the above questions, if you or a loved one are a good candidate for chemotherapy and it has a good chance, consider it. If you have the option of cannabinoids and are open to plant-based medicines, add them in.
There is not one path when it comes to beating cancer. We work with patients with cancer every day and the above questions remind us that our education and encouragement is needed for patients to explore all their options. Most of our RNs have been nurses for 30+ years and have worked in complex units like oncology, bringing that knowledge to this new paradigm. Conventional treatments can be successful, but must be monitored, adjusted, and ceased if they’re causing too much harm. Patients don’t want to be too trusting, but also don’t want to question their doctor – putting pressure on all points to be collaborative and accountable.
Author’s Contact Information:
If you or a loved one is facing cancer, please reach out to our Nurse Line at (970) 404-HOPE. We’d love to help you triage what is needed and to educate you on our programs and services. Our Cannabis and Cancer online program is 25% off this month. Pair that program with a RN consultation to personalize your options and get the confidence you need to make decisions. www.HolisticCaring.com
Elisabeth Mack, RN, BSN, MBA founded Holistic Caring in 2016 to bridge the gap between conventional and cannabis medicine through education, guidance, and supportive care for patients with product choices, dosages, interactions and timing. Elisabeth is a provider for the California Board of Registered Nursing and authored a curriculum to approach cannabis by emphasizing holistic and functional medicine. She is now training the entire audience of healthcare to become a Cannabis Health Coach. She’s built training programs to prepare coaches for success in patient consultations, teaching industry staff, or leading workshops. There’s even a toolkit of forms and resources for daily practice, giving presentations, and influencing stakeholders.