Ovarian Cancer and Medical Cannabis: What Patients Need to Know

Marijuana. CBD. Weed. Pot. Ganja. Devil’s Lettuce. It’s remarkable that a single plant can have so many monikers, and so many medicinal uses. Kelay Trentham, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition, spoke at OCRA’s Ovarian Cancer National Conference this year about how medical cannabis can be used in the treatment of ovarian cancer. Here’s what she shared.

Medical Cannabis in History

Cannabis is a plant from the Cannabaceae family and it has been used medicinally since before written history. Its first recorded use can be traced back 3,500 years ago in Egypt and in 1st and 2nd century China, though it was only introduced to western medicine in the 1840’s as an antidote to rabies. In 1937, it was effectively banned in the U.S. via a very high tax, and in 1970, cannabis was given Schedule 1 classification indicating “high risk abuse, with no accepted medical use.”

Medicinal Properties

The Cannabis plant has many properties that either interact with the cannabinoid receptors in our bodies or share chemical similarities with our own system, among them pain relief, anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, anti-nausea, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, as well as neuroprotective effects. The most studied of the cannabinoids are THC and CBD. THC has a strong effect on our nervous system, but weak on our immune, and has psychoactive effects. CBD, on the other hand, has both weak effects on our nervous and immune systems, without psychoactive effects.

The trick, depending on the symptom, is in finding the right balance between the two most commonly used cannabinoids, the right dosage, and the right delivery method. People can inhale cannabis; take it orally via lozenges, sprays, edibles or capsules; absorb it through their skin with a cream; or take it rectally. Each delivery method varies in terms of the onset and duration of relief and comes with its own considerations and contraindications.

Consulting with Your Doctor about Medical Cannabis

The prevailing recommendation is to start low, go slow, and stay low; and the best dose is the one that is lowest you can take and still get some relief and can tolerate. As always, speak with your doctor if you are considering medical cannabis. Questions to ask during a consultation are:

  • How will taking cannabis affect other illnesses or conditions I may have?
  • How will it interact with other medications I’m taking?
  • If I’m currently undergoing chemotherapy, is medical cannabis still an option?
  • Which is the right cannabinoid for relief of my particular symptoms?
  • Can I adjust the dosage? How?
Medical Cannabis and Ovarian Cancer

Watch now: “Medical Cannabis: What You Need to Know,” and other informational videos originally presented at our 2020 virtual National Conference are now available in their entirety on our website. View all ovarian cancer videos.

Additional information about medical cannabis can be found at:

  • International Association for Cannabis as Medicine (Cannabis-med.org)
  • Americans for Safe Access (Safeaccessnow.org)
  • Cannabis Pharmacy by Michael Backes
  • Chronic Relief by Nishi Whitely
  • MacCallum & Russo, “Practical considerations in medical cannabis administration and dosing,” European Journal of Internal Medicine, 2018, 49:12-19

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