Marijuana and cancer have been tightly entwined by both the medical community and the medical marijuana communities. There are some ways in which marijuana has been shown to alleviate some symptoms within cancer patients, but there are also some claims that are anecdotal and unproven. Anecdotal claims are not necessarily untrue — they simply have not yet been studied fully.
Proven Applications for Cannabis in Cancer Patients
Cannabis is commonly used to treat both vomiting and nausea within cancer patients. Studies have shown that this application works — at least better than placebos. However, this use does not treat the cancer directly. Vomiting and nausea is not (generally) a symptom of cancer but instead of the cancer treatment: chemotherapy. Thus, cannabis is used in conjunction with chemotherapy to manage side effects from the treatment itself.
Cannabis has also been shown to be able to treat nerve pain in general. Nerve pain can be associated with cancer patients depending on the type of cancer. For cancer patients who are losing weight, cannabis can increase appetite, thereby helping them to thrive. Thus, cannabis has mostly been shown to be effective to alleviate nausea, avoid vomiting, increase appetite, and reduce pain.
Unproven Applications for Cannabis in Cancer Patients
Though THC has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells, these clinical trials have not yet been completed in humans. Instead, these claims are primarily based on in-lab experiments and experiments on animals. Cannabinoids, in addition to THC, may be able to slow or even stop the growth of cancer, but more research is needed to determine whether or not this is actually a viable form of treatment. Thus, while there is good reason to believe that marijuana may inhibit the growth of cancer itself, it has not yet been cleared for the treatment of cancer. Professionals generally advise against the use of marijuana for this purpose alone.
There are many medical marijuana events that discuss the implications of medical marijuana use in cancer patients. As of 2015, there are a total of two drugs that are based on marijuana and available to the public: dronabinol and nabilone. These medications replicate the proven benefits of medical marijuana without the marijuana itself. Overall, however, no studies have found that marijuana is harmful to cancer patients. The act of smoking it — rather than ingesting it or using a medical analog — may convey some damage to the lungs.