Cancer

There are many different types of Cancers that affects the body. We will be focusing on Brain, Beast and Lung Cancer.

Brain Cancer

Brain tumors are the abnormal growth of cells in the organ, not all tumors cause brain cancer. The term brain cancer is only reserved if the tumors formed in the brain are malignant. This type of tumors can grow and spread aggressively, even spreading to other parts of the body. It is estimated that about 6 out of every 1,000 people in the United States is affected by a brain or central nervous system tumor.

There are several types of brain cancers and are named depending on which type of brain cell the tumor developed from. Primary brain tumors commonly grow from gliomas, meningiomas, pituitary adenomas, vestibular schwannomas, and primitive neuroectodermal tumors. Glioma covers glioblastomas, astrocytomas, oligodendrogliomas, and ependymomas. Aside from these, brain cancer may also develop from cancerous cells that developed from other parts of the body. This type of brain cancer is called metastatic brain cancer, referring to metastasis, which is the process of the spreading of cancerous cells to the brain from another tumor.

While doctors know that brain cancer occurs due to the abnormal growth of cells, the exact cause is still undetermined. However, researchers and doctors believe that genetic factors, various environmental toxins (eg. chemicals used in oil refineries, embalming chemicals, rubber industry chemicals), radiation to the head, HIV infection, and smoking have links to the development of brain cancer.

Not all brain tumors cause symptoms while some are only discovered after death. But if you notice some changes in your brain or nervous system, it is best to consult your doctor for proper diagnosis. Some symptoms and warning signs of a brain tumor are persistent and/or severe headaches, muscle weakness, paresthesias (feeling pins and needles or reduced touch sensations), clumsiness, difficulty walking, weakness and/or fatigue of arms and legs, and seizures. Others nonspecific brain cancer symptoms are altered mental status, nausea, vomiting with possible dizziness and/or vertigo, abnormalities in vision, difficulty with speech, and gradual changes in intellectual or emotional capacity.

Conventional Treatment

Brain cancer patients have many treatment options which are prescribed by their cancer treatment team which primarily composes of neurosurgeons, oncologists, radiation oncologist, and your primary health care provider. The treatment team prescribes treatment options based on the tumor subtype, tumor stage, genomic markers, patient’s age, and general health. Treatment plans are suggested and adjusted depending on the type of cancer and the staging group. Below are the common treatment options for breast cancer:

Surgery

Surgery is performed on brain tumor patients to confirm that the abnormality seen during the testing phase is indeed a tumor and to remove the tumor. If the tumor is too risky to be removed, surgeons will usually take a sample of the tumor to identify its type.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves the use of high energy rays to kill off tumor cells in order to stop them from growing and multiplying. This is often used for patients who cannot undergo surgery or as a follow up therapy after surgery.

Radiation therapy is administered in several methods which are external radiation, internal/implant radiation, and stereotactic radiosurgery. External radiation makes use of a high energy beam that is targeted at the tumor. The beam passess through the skin, the skull, and other tissues to get to the tumor. Internal or implant radiation, as the name implies, involves inserting a tiny radioactive capsule inside the tumor. The radiation coming from the capsule destroys the tumor. Stereotactic radiosurgery on the other hand makes use of a single large dose of high energy radiation beams that are trained on the tumor from different angles.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy make use of pharmaceutical drugs such as BCNU and CCNU which work by disrupting the abnormal cell division, causing the cancer cells to die off. While this method is most of the time effective, patients might experience side effects such as nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, loss of appetite, hair loss, and others.

Brain Cancer and Medical Marijuana

Among the many forms of brain cancer, malignant gliomas are the most aggressive ones. Because of this, there has been a special interest in treating malignant gliomas with cannabinoids because of the limited treatment options.

While still very limited, studies have shown that medical marijuana could potentially help with the symptoms of brain cancer and killing off cancer cells as well. The study done by the University of Madrid showed that the selective activation of the CB2 endocannabinoid receptor by cannabinoids could signal cell death in gliomas. Meanwhile, other studies have shown that cannabinoids could also induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) of glioma cells; hinder the vascular endothelial growth factor pathway, which the tumor uses to make new blood vessels to keep itself alive; and cannabidiol (CBD) might also hinder brain tumor growth.

Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the formation of a malignant tumor from the cells of the breast. This type of cancer can occur in both sexes, but is far more common in females.

According to statistics, about 1 out of 8 women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime. And in 2018, it is estimated that about 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed this year along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer.

There are several types of breast cancer:

Ductal carcinoma in situ

This is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. This type of breast cancer has not spread thus having a very high cure rate.

Invasive ductal carcinoma

This cancer starts to develop in a duct of the breast and grows into the surrounding tissue. This is the most common form of breast cancer.

Invasive lobular carcinoma

This type of breast cancer starts to develop in the glands of the breast that produce milk. This type of breast cancers composes about 10% of the cases of invasive breast cancers.

Mucinous carcinoma

This type of breast cancer is formed from mucus producing cancer cells.

Medullary carcinoma

This type of breast cancer is an infiltrating breast cancer that presents a well-defined boundary between the cancerous and non-cancerous tissues.

Inflammatory breast cancer

This makes the skin of the breast appear red and warm due to the blockage of the lymph vessels by cancer cells.

Triple-negative breast cancer

A subtype of invasive cancer with cells that lack estrogen and progesterone receptors and have no excess of the HER2 protein on their surface.

Paget’s disease of the nipple

This type of cancer starts in the ducts of the breast and spreads to the nipple and the area surrounding it. It manifests with crusting and redness around the nipple.

Adenoid cystic carcinoma

Possessing both glandular and cystic features, this type of breast cancer does not spread aggressively and has a good prognosis.

Lobular carcinoma in situ

Not a type of cancer, but lobular carcinoma in situ is an area of abnormal cell growth that can lead to invasive breast cancer later in life.

There are also other uncommon types of breast cancer which include papillary carcinoma, phyllodes tumor, angiosarcoma, and tubular carcinoma.

While doctors know that breast cancers occur due to the abnormal growth of cells, the exact cause is still undetermined. However, researchers and doctors believe that hormones, lifestyle, and environmental factors may increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer.

If you notice changes or abnormalities in your breasts, then it might be advisable to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. Breast cancer symptoms include a breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue; changes in the size, shape, or appearance of a breast; changes to the skin over the breast (eg. dimpling); a newly inverted nipple; peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of the skin surrounding the nipple or breast skin; and redness or pitting of the skin over the breast.

Conventional Treatment

Breast cancer patients have many treatment options which are prescribed by their cancer treatment team which primarily composes of a breast surgeon or surgical oncologist, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist, and plastic surgeon. The treatment team prescribes treatment options based on the tumor subtype, tumor stage, genomic markers, patient’s age, general health, menopausal status, preferences, and if there are presence of known mutations. Treatment plans are suggested and adjusted depending on the type of cancer and the staging group. Below are the common treatment options for breast cancer:

Local Treatments

Local treatments are a classification of cancer treatment options and methods that treat the tumor without affecting the rest of the body. Surgery and radiation therapy are methods used for the local treatment of breast cancer.

Surgery

Surgical options for the treatment of breast cancer are available in several forms which involves the surgical removal of the cancer cells from the breast and the evaluation of the lymph nodes.

There are two types of surgical removal methods of breast cancer which are lumpectomy and mastectomy. The former involves the removal of the tumor itself and a small portion or margin of healthy cells that surrounding the tumor. In this method, majority of the breast is retained. On the other hand, mastectomies involve the surgical removal of the entire breast. Meanwhile, lymph nodes are also removed and analyzed in order to evaluate if these axillary lymph nodes near the breast contain cancer cells.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy involves the use of high energy x-rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. This treatment options is usually given before or after the surgery in order to help with the success rate of totally removing the tumor. However, radiation therapy might cause side effects such as fatigue, swelling of the breast, redness, skin discoloration or hyperpigmentation, and pain or burning of the skin where the radiation was directed. Sometimes, it might include blistering or peeling. On rare occasions, radiation might also affect a small amount of the lung which leads to pneumonitis.

Systemic Treatments

Systemic treatments are the use of cancer drugs that are administered either orally or directly into the bloodstream and such methods can reach the cancer cells almost anywhere in the body. Chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are methods used in the systemic treatment of breast cancer.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is the use of pharmaceutical drugs to destroy cancer cells by blocking the cell’s abilities to grow and divide. These drugs are administered intravenously, injection under the skin or muscle, or taken orally. The occurrence and intensity of side effects from cancer drugs depend on the individual, the drug used, the schedule, and the dosage. Side effects from chemotherapy include fatigue, risk of infection, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, loss of appetite, and diarrhea. On rare occasions, patients might develop long term side effects heart damage, nerve damage, or secondary cancers.

Hormonal Therapy

Hormonal therapy is recommended to patients with tumors that test positive for either estrogen or progesterone receptors, which make use of hormones to fuel their growth. This cancer treatment approach blocks the hormones that helps in preventing cancer recurrence and death from breast cancer. While proven effective, patients might experience side effects such as bone pain, joint pain, osteoporosis, bone thinning, nausea, vomiting, hot flashes, weakness, fatigue, headache, insomnia, increased sweating, dizziness, drowsiness, higher cholesterol levels, weight gain, blood clots, stroke, development of endometrial cancer, increased bone or tumor pain, mood swings, depression, hair thinning, constipation, dry skin, loss of libido, leg cramps, swelling, flu-like symptoms, hypercalcemia, rashes, vaginal discharge and/or bleeding, vision problems, dry eyes, diarrhea, sore throat, back pain, stomach/abdominal pain, and injection site pain.

 

Targeted Therapy

Targeted therapy is a cancer treatment method that targets the cancer’s specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. Unlike chemotherapy, this method focuses on the biochemical pathways that lead to tumor development and blocks them, limiting damage to the healthy cells. However, patients might experience side effects such as diarrhea, liver problems, skin problems, blood clotting problems, high blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, hair loss, headaches and fatigue. On rare occasions, patients might develop heart damage or gastrointestinal perforation.

Breast Cancer and Medical Marijuana

Because of legalization issues in the United States, research on the potentials of medical marijuana in providing benefits for diseases like breast cancer is still very limited. However, initial studies have shown that the compounds found in medical marijuana could potentially hold anti-tumor properties and enhance the effects of current breast cancer treatment options.

The result of one study suggests that the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) triggers the CB2 receptors, which seemed to have played a role in medical marijuana’s anti-tumor properties. Aside from this, cannabidiol (CBD) also helped in preventing the spread of breast cancer to other parts of the body. Another study looked into the effect of endocannabinoids naturally produced by our body which could also prevent breast cancer cell growth.

Aside from potentially stopping the growth of tumors, medical marijuana may also be used in alleviating the side effects of current breast cancer treatment methods. It is widely known that medical marijuana could provide benefits such as an increase in energy, relief of nausea, pain relief, increases appetite, and can also act as a sleep aid for those suffering from insomnia.

While there are no particular recommended medical marijuana strains to help with the side effects, it is highly advised that you consult dispensaries to achieve the target effect. 

Lung Cancer

Just like other forms of cancer, lung cancer is caused by the abnormal growth of cells that eventually forms a tumor. Malignant tumors grow aggressively and can also enter into the bloodstream or lymphatic system and spread to other parts of the body.

Smoking remains to be the number one cause of lung cancer development, with about 90% of lung cancer cases arising from tobacco use. Other causes of lung cancer are passive (second hand) smoking, exposure to asbestos fibers, and exposure to radon gas. Other risk factors include genetic predisposition, lung diseases, prior history of lung cancer, air pollution, and exposure to diesel exhaust.

According to the Center for Disease Control, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death and the second most common cancer in men and women in the United States. It is estimated that in 2018, there will be about 244,000 new cases of lung cancer. Almost 70% of people who are aged 65 years and above are diagnosed with this type of cancer.

There are two types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The classification is based on the microscopic appearance of of the tumor cells. NSCLCs is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for about 85% of lung cancer cases. SCLCs or oat cell cancers on the other comprise about 15 to 20% of cases and are the most aggressive and tends to spread quickly.

Depending on the location and extent of the spread of the tumor, symptoms of lung cancer may vary among patients. In up to 25% of people diagnosed with lung cancer, no symptoms were manifested and are only discovered during routine chest X-rays or CT scans. Some symptoms directly related to the cancer include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, and coughing up blood. If the cancer has invaded the nerves, it could also cause shoulder pain, paralysis of the vocal cords, difficulty swallowing. Obstruction of the airways may cause infections such as development of pneumonia.

When the lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body, it may cause excruciating pain (bones) or neurologic symptoms (brain) such as blurred vision, headaches, seizures, and symptoms of stroke such as weakness or loss of sensation. Other symptoms include paraneoplastic syndromes, weight loss, weakness, fatigue, depression, and mood changes.

Conventional Treatment

Depending on several factors, the cancer treatment team will recommend a the best treatment method to go with. Such factors include overall health, the type and stage of the cancer, and preferences.

Surgery

Surgery involves removing the tissues affected by the lung cancer and a margin of healthy tissue. Depending on the extent of the cancer, the surgeon may perform a wedge resection (removal of the affected area and a margin of healthy tissue), segmental resection (removal of a larger portion of lung, but not the entire lobe), lobectomy (removal of an entire lobe), and pneumonectomy (removal of one lung).

Radiation Therapy

This method involves the use of high-powered energy beams such as X-rays and protons to kill cancer cells. However, radiation therapy might cause side effects such as fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, mild redness of the skin, blistering, peeling, and hair loss.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy makes use of pharmaceutical drugs to kill cancer cells. These drugs are usually administered orally or intravenously. However, the use of chemotherapy might cause side effects such as hair loss, mouth sores, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, increased chance of infections, easy bruising or bleeding, and fatigue.

Radiosurgery

Radiosurgery involves intense radiation that aims many beams from many angles at the cancer cells. This is usually recommended to patients who can’t undergo surgery or whose cancer have already spread to other parts of the body including the brain.

Targeted Drug Therapy

Targeted drug therapy is used for treating cancer cells that have specific abnormalities. This treatment method works by blocking abnormalities, causing the cancer cells to die. Undergoing targeted drug therapy might cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and changes in vision.

Lung Cancer and Medical Marijuana

While some ongoing studies indicate that the cannabinoids found in medical marijuana have the potential to kill cancer cells and hinder their ability to grow and multiply, further research is still needed. But due to issues with legality, research studies on medical marijuana remain limited.

However, some testimonials and studies indicate that medical marijuana usage could help in the management of the side effects brought about by the conventional treatment methods and it could also help in the management of symptoms of lung cancer. Medical marijuana will aid patients in addressing symptoms including fatigue, nausea, appetite loss, and pain.

Usage of medical marijuana might cause some side effects that are easily manageable. Such side effects are hunger/increased appetite, insomnia/energy boost, drowsiness, dry mouth, and eye redness. But side effects such as increased appetite, energy boost, and drowsiness might actually benefit cancer patients.