Asbestos has caused severe illness in thousands of people, most workers who never knew they were exposed to the dangerous mineral or just how harmful it could be. Mesothelioma, an aggressive, deadly cancer that affects the lining around the lungs, is most often associated with asbestos. Medical marijuana is proving to have many important uses for cancer patients, including those suffering from asbestos-related malignancies. From an actual treatment for the cancer to relief of symptoms, marijuana is an important alternative for these victims.
Conducting research with cannabis can be difficult because of federal laws against it, but the studies that have been done show promise as using marijuana in the treatment of cancers, including lung cancer. Cannabis is a plant that contains hundreds of compounds known as cannabinoids. These, and chemically similar compounds are investigated as possible anti-cancer drugs.
The evidence that it can help treat cancer is limited but promising. In one study with laboratory mice, for instance, the subjects lived three times as long when given marijuana along with chemotherapy. Some of the most recent research is giving hope to victims of asbestos lung cancer.
A study recently published found that THC, one of the most prevalent compounds in marijuana, can halve tumor growth in lung cancers. It seems that THC blocks a growth factor hormone that normally promotes tumor growth, especially in aggressive cancers like non-small cell lung cancer. The results are exciting but still preliminary.
Because research using cannabis has been limited and mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer, there is very little evidence that medical marijuana can act as a treatment for this specific cancer. However, the anti-cancer, anti-tumor effects of cannabinoids that have been seen in the study of other types of cancer makes it reasonable to assume that the same would be true in the fight against mesothelioma.
Perhaps more importantly for mesothelioma patients who are suffering now, there is plenty of evidence that cannabis can be effectively used to manage and limit the uncomfortable side effects of treatment and the symptoms of the cancer itself.
Symptoms of the cancer itself as well as those caused by treatments, like chemotherapy, can be reduced with the use of cannabis: pain, insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite and weight loss, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Finding relief for these side effects and symptoms is important for improving patient quality of life. It also helps patients better tolerate treatment so that they can complete rounds of chemotherapy and radiation without stopping.
Medical marijuana is currently legal in several states and the District of Columbia. It is still, however, illegal to use under federal law. It is up to individual patients and their doctors to make the decision together to use or not use cannabis as a treatment or as a supplement to help relieve symptoms. Patients and doctors alike need to be aware of the state’s regulations and the benefits and risks of using marijuana for lung cancer or mesothelioma. So far the research suggests the benefits are worth the risks for most people.