Pain Management in Cancer Patients
Cancer and its treatment can cause various sorts of pain. This is the most common and, in terms of quality of life, the most important cancer-related symptom. Cancer-related pain may be from Inflammation, nerve injury, or the invasion of bone and other sensitive tissue by growing tumors. Cancer pain tends to be severe, persistent, and can become resistant to treatment with opiate painkillers.
Basic studies suggest that opiates and cannabinoids suppress pain through different mechanisms. If that is the case, marijuana-based medicines could perhaps be combined with opiates to boost their pain-relieving power while limiting their side effects.
The most encouraging clinical studies of cannabinoids happen to focus on chronic pain in cancer patients. In one such study, 10 patients with advanced cancer received THC pills in four different doses as well as a placebo. Each patient received the entire range of pills, which were identical in appearance, over successive days. On days when patients received the two highest doses—15 and 20 milligrams of the drug, as compared with 0, 5, or 10 milligrams—they reported significant pain relief. Throughout this study none of the patients experienced nausea or vomiting and more than half reported that their appetite increased, which suggests that oral THC also acts as an anti-nausea agent and an appetite stimulant. Given their apparent multifaceted benefits, research continues to frame cannabinoids as valuable additions to the wheelhouse of cancer treatment.
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