Medical Marijuana and Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a medical condition very close to my heart, not because I or anybody I love is unlucky enough to suffer from it but because I spent five years of my life writing about it. During those years, even at such a distance, I was appalled by how devastating this lethal lung cancer can be.

What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a type of cancer and one of a group of cancers that do not respond to traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. Most of our internal organs are covered with a protective lining known as the mesothelium – cancer cells in any part of this lining is known as mesothelioma. The most well known form of this disease is pleural mesothelioma, which is cancer of the lining covering the lungs. However, Mesothelioma can also occur in the abdomen, and this variant of the disease is known as peritoneal mesothelioma.

Seventy to eighty percent of those diagnosed with mesothelioma have had some contact with cancer, usually many years prior to the onset of the disease and 10% of people who have had prolonged contact with asbestos will go on to develop mesothelioma. Given, that up until the seventies, many school ceilings and walls were lined with asbestos because of its fire retardant properties, it’s easy to see why diagnosis of this type of cancer is on the increase. People who worked in the following industries during the early to mid-twentieth century are those most at risk:

  • Building industry
  • Ship building industry
  • Manufacture of household appliances
  • Motor industry
  • Power stations
  • Telephone exchanges

The troubling aspect of this disease is that it takes 15 to 40 years after exposure to develop; the number of diagnoses is expected to peak in 2020 before the level starts to fall off.

How can Medical Marijuana help Mesothelioma?

Well, let’s get this said up-front: as far as we know medical marijuana will not cure mesothelioma. Nevertheless, we know of at least one study looking at cannabis for chemotherapy patients (Harvard University) that showed THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, slashed tumor growth in common lung cancer by 50% and also reduced the spread of the cancer.

Mesothelioma is not a common cancer, nonetheless, it is likely to be treated using common medications – because there is little else that can currently be done, other than surgery. This means that the mesothelioma is almost certain to undergo chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.

The well-respected British Medical Journal published a study, back in 2001, which proved cannabis was better than the commonly used anti-emetics for the treatment of nausea:

‘Cannabinoids were more effective anti-emetics than: prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, chlorpromazine, thiethylperazine,
haloperidol, domperidone, or alizapride’

To see the rather nasty side-effects of some of these drugs, just Google them!

This same piece of Harvard research highlighted the fact that some side effects of marijuana are positively helpful when dealing with the effects of chemotherapy, such as sedation or drowsiness. Although it does point out that some patients may have problems with some of the other side effects, such as depression.

My personal belief is that these effects can be limited or avoided by careful choice of marijuana strain.

The most telling point of the article, for me at least, was the following:

‘Many patients have a strong preference for cannabinoids.’


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Comments

  1. Pingback: Medical Marijuana Benefits, Helps These Conditions

  2. If pot is good medicine then let legalization happen already.

    Marijuana does not have a terrible amount of adverse affects. Instead of spending massive amounts of money on law enforcement to arrest kids with glass pipes, the government should concentrate on real problems. The medicinal use of marijuana is well proven and can used to enhance legal drug regiments to ease the suffering of ailing people.

    • My partner has pleural mesothelioma. He was given the average prognosis of 11 months. That was 12 months ago. We are not sure if marijuana is a cure or not but he does find (after much experimenting) that it certainly does help him in regards to sleep, depression and a general feeling of well being.
      When he mentioned his use to his Oncologist he was more or less ignored.
      I would think that the doctors would like to follow someone who is using marijuana to see what effect it has, e.g. if his tumour is increasing or staying the same. He has a classic case of Pleural Mesothelioma, he is 74 years old. He is not sure how he contracted it, though he thinks it may have been when he toured an asbestos factory in South Africa while training to be an Architect. So far he is not in any pain but has been warned that this may become an issue as the disease progresses. Needless to say we are in support of marijuana becoming legal.

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