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Cancer Pain and Medicinal Cannabis

Cancer pain differs from person to person and depends on a range of factors - including the type of cancer, how advanced the illness is and individual pain tolerance.

Cancer related pain also varies in severity, frequency and type, ranging from a dull ache to a sharp or burning pain. 

The cause of cancer related pain also changes depending on the person and cancer type. The pain can be caused by the cancer itself, if the cancer effects tissue, if tumours press on nerves or if the tumour releases chemicals that cause pain. 

Cancer pain is mostly manageable and pain management should always feature in a cancer treatment plan. 

What are the symptoms of Cancer Pain?

Cancer Pain can physically manifest in a range of ways, including:

  • Spinal cord compression
  • Bone pain
  • Surgical pain
  • Phantom pain
  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments
  • Peripheral neuropathy (PN)
  • Mouth sores (stomatitis or mucositis)

Factors that may increase your risk of developing cancer pain:

  • Ageing
  • Tobacco
  • Sun exposure
  • Radiation exposure
  • Some viruses and bacteria
  • Certain hormones
  • Family history of cancer
  • Alcohol
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being overweight

How can medicinal cannabis help with Cancer Pain?

According to research, cannabinoids have the capacity to ease pain and nausea - common side effects of both cancer itself as well as cancer treatment. A study testing nabiximols as a treatment for patients with advanced cancer pain found that patients treated with medicinal cannabis experienced an improved average pain score. 

Furthermore, an observational study that took place over six months found that medical cannabis use resulted in less patients experiencing severe pain and lower rates of opioid use/dependency, all whilst improving the user's quality of life.

Some of the cannabis products that have shown to be beneficial treatments to cancer pain sufferers include:

  • Nabiximols
  • Dronbinol
  • THC:CBD extracts
  • CBD extracts

They can be consumed as an oil, vape liquid, sprays and wafers.

If you or a loved one are suffering from cancer pain and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.