Increasingly, medical cannabis is being proposed as a potential treatment option for lymphoma. Lymphoma is a type of cancer that occurs when the lymphatic system fails to properly balance white blood cells, resulting in the individual suffering from diseases such as Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and Hodgkin’s lymphoma (HL). The lymphatic system is comprised of various organs, including the lymph nodes, thymus gland, bone marrow, and spleen; it is responsible for aiding in homeostasis regulation and fighting off infections.
While the exact cause of lymphoma remains unknown, there have been certain correlations identified in regards to the development of the disease. Such risk factors include age—Hodgkin’s lymphoma tends to affect primarily older individuals while non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma rages more aggressively among teens and young adults—as well as gender, with males being more likely than females to contract lymphoma. Additionally, those exposed to radiation or hazardous chemicals such as benzene or agricultural chemicals are at greater risk for developing the illness. Infections like Epstein-Barr virus and Helicobacter pylori infection have also been identified as potential agents for the onset of lymphoma.
Treatments for the condition generally involve chemotherapy and radiation therapy; however, these treatments come with a range of undesirable side effects such as fatigue, hair loss, nausea, vomiting and weight loss. To ease these symptoms and combat the progression of cancerous cells, many patients are turning to medical cannabis as an alternative form of treatment.
The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) interacts with cannabinoids found in cannabis which helps the body to regulate homeostasis, providing relief from pain associated with the illness. Cannabinoids like CBD (cannabidiol), CBG (cannabigerol), CBC (cannabichromene), and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) have been found to possibly inhibit certain cancer cells from further growth (1). In addition to combating tumor growth directly, CBD may impact its environment by reducing the formation of blood vessels which supply cancer cells with nutrients they need to survive. THC offers an additional layer of relief by helping to reduce symptoms like nausea and vomiting that often arise during chemotherapy treatments.
The success rate for both forms of lymphoma is promising provided it is detected early enough; current 5-year survival rates for Hodgkin’s lymphoma stand at 87%, and 84% for non-Hodgkin’s lympthoma patients in the United States. However, this does not mean that medical cannabis should be used instead of prescribed treatments; rather it should be used in conjunction with traditional therapies to ease some of its harsher side effects.
Cannabis can be consumed through a variety of preparations including capsules, sprays, ointments, cannabis oil, tablets or vaping devices; however it is important that individuals consult their healthcare professional prior to starting any new form of medication in order to ensure safety and avoid unwanted interactions with existing medications.
Due to federal prohibitions on research into cannabis medicines there is still much we don’t know about them; yet what has been discovered is certainly promising and provides hope for many individuals who suffer from lymphoma or other forms of cancer. As such it appears that medical cannabis could potentially serve as an effective tool in providing relief from severe symptoms associated with this challenging cancer.