Lymphoma and Medical Cannabis

As with other types of cancer, lymphoma is an illness which can negatively impact a person’s life. In addition to the symptoms and side effects that are common with other cancers, lymphoma has the added strain of affecting the body’s immune system. This opens up the patient to the increased risk of other diseases. Sadly, lymphoma can affect people of all ages and is one of the most common types of cancer among young people, including children. The treatment options for lymphoma typically include radiation and chemotherapy. Regrettably, these treatments are not without their own adverse side effects. Fortunately, medical cannabis, (medical marijuana) is rapidly rising to become one of the preferred treatment options for lymphoma. When used in conjunction with conventional treatments, medical cannabis eases the unpleasant side effects associated with chemotherapy and radiation. Not only is research proving that medical cannabis treats the symptoms of lymphoma, it attacks cancer cells directly by stopping the growth of tumors and, through a process known as cellular apoptosis, inducing the death of cancer cells (Guzmán, et al).

Lymphoma is a word that is used not for only one type of cancer, but for a group of cancers that attack cells in the body’s immune system. The cells, which are known as lymphocytes, are primarily found in the lymph nodes, bone marrow, spleen, and are responsible for fighting infection. There are two main types of lymphoma: Hodgkin lymphoma, which spreads in an orderly manner from one group of lymph nodes to another and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which spreads through the lymphatic system in a non-orderly manner ( An estimated 22,000 people die from lymphoma every year, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over 75,000 new patients were diagnosed in 2014 alone ( Fortunately for those suffering from lymphoma, medical studies have shown that cannabis can help the treatment of cancer by attacking the cancer cells in four different ways. Firstly, medical cannabis acts as an anti-proliferative. In 2014, medical researchers found that when cannabis was applied, it stopped the growth of tumor cells (Chakravarti, et al.). Secondly, cannabis is an anti-metastatic. This means that it stops the spreading of cancer cells from one part of the body to another (Velasco, et al.). The third way cannabis stops cancer is through anti-angiogenesis. Angiogenesis refers to the process by which tumors access blood in order to grow. A study in 2008 found that the cannabinoid known as THC impedes a tumor’s ability to access blood vessels, essentially causing tumor cells to starve (Blázquez, et al.). The fourth, and perhaps most impressive, way that cannabis attacks cancer cells is by inducing programmed cellular death, or apoptosis (Fisher, et al.). Normal healthy cells routinely undergo the process of apoptosis to maintain cellular health. Once healthy cells become cancerous, they avoid apoptosis and no longer die. Studies as early as 1998 (Sánchez, et al.) have shown that cannabinoids found in cannabis reverse this trend and actually induce cellular apoptosis in cancer cells, effectively causing the cancer to commit suicide.

While cannabis directly attacks the cancer cells, it also helps lymphoma patients by easing the symptoms of the disease itself and relieving the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Pain is one of the most unpleasant and most commonly mentioned side effects of chemotherapy. Even more concerning is that chemotherapy can cause patients to develop neuropathy (Park, et al.) which can lead to long term damage even after treatment is completed. Not only has cannabis been used successfully in relieving pain for thousands of years, but recent studies have shown that it can reverse chemotherapy-induced neuropathy (Abrams, et al.). Many patients prefer the use of cannabis over prescription pain medications which can have very harmful and damaging side effects, including addiction. In addition to providing pain relief, medical research is proving that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are powerful antiemetics that quell the nausea and vomiting in patients undergoing chemotherapy (Parker, et al.). Further, studies point to cannabis being effective in treating anxiety in patients (Campos, et al.) and, when used in tandem with conventional cancer treatments, cannabis is more effective than chemotherapy medications alone (Caffarel, et al.).

Lymphoma is a complicated and invasive cancer with unpleasant side effects. The conventional treatments for lymphoma also have side effects that can be painful and debilitating, quickly taking a negative diagnosis and making it worse for the patient. Fortunately, medical cannabis has the remarkable ability to ease the undesirable symptoms of the cancer and the side effects associated with chemotherapy. Even more remarkable is the fact that medical science is showing us how cannabis has been able to stop cancer cells from growing, spreading, and feeding themselves. The fact that cancer cells can be programmed to die via cellular apoptosis with medical cannabis is truly impressive. Whether on its own or taken alongside chemotherapy and radiation, medical cannabis can provide astonishing results and relief for patients suffering from lymphoma.

Written by: Mara Trivino ©


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