Chemotherapy Treatment for Cancer and Side Effects

Chemotherapy side effects are well known to be a discomfort to patients and there are a very long list of chemotherapy drugs, with just as many side effects to coincide with its treatment. Chemotherapy side effects are not always the same and oftentimes will not be experienced by every patient. For some patients, the symptoms are mild. Others experience great discomfort and the chemotherapy side effects greatly alter their quality of life. These often subside once the treatment has ended and there are other medications that can be prescribed to reduce side effects.

Fatigue / Lethargy

Chemotherapy makes a patient feel tired. This increases as the treatment progresses and can stick around several months following chemotherapy. This feeling of fatigue means a feeling of weakness whereby there is no energy to be active. Simple tasks become exceedingly difficult to muster.

Difficulty Eating and Drinking

Chemotherapy drugs are known for creating ill feelings within patients, where nausea and vomiting is as common side effect. This can be controlled by anti nausea medicines. The development of mouth ulcers is a common occurrence as a number of chemotherapy medications will make the lining of a patient’s mouth inflamed and sore. There are also some chemotherapy drugs that can cause a temporary loss of the taste sensation.

Digestive / Bowel

There are chemotherapy medicines that irritate the lining of the bowel. The common side effect that coincides with this is diarrhoea. Usually this subsides after the first few days of chemotherapy treatment. There is medication to help prevent this side effect.

Some chemotherapy drugs that help control feelings of nausea can cause a patient issues with constipation.  Again, this side effect can be prescribed yet another medicine.

Medical Cannabis Treatment for Chemotherapy Side Effects

Nausea and Vomiting (N&V) are essential physical process required to protect the body from ingestion of potentially harmful substances. However in a disease state, the reflex is often hypersensitive leading to prolonged emesis and concomitant nausea. Nausea and vomiting are commonly associated with many chemotherapeutic drugs which the body identifies as potentially toxic.

The process of N&V is initiated by the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) which is responsible for detecting emetic agents in the blood. The CTZ has two primary receptors, specifically dopamine type 2 (D2) and serotonin 5-HT3. Emetic agents that activate these receptors cause the physiological process of emesis.

medical cannabis treatment for parkinsons disease nausea-graph

Nausea & Vomiting

1 In response to noxious stimulus-specific neurotransmitters are released in the Chemoreceptor Trigger Zone (CTZ), one of which is serotonin. Serotonin binds to the 5HT3A receptor at the CTZ and initiates an emetic response.

2 Cannabidiol (CBD) is an allosteric inhibitor of the 5HT3A receptor meaning that its binding causes a conformational change which, in turn, reduces the ability of serotonin to bind to the CTZ and cause emesis.

3 The endocannabinoid system is thought to control the release of newly synthesised serotonin within the presynaptic neurone. By modulating the release of this neurotransmitter, endocannabinoid activation is suggested to reduce nausea and vomiting.

Chemotherapy side effects cause a patient who is already suffering with a life threatening illness, great discomfort. Medical cannabis and the constituent CBD has been found to help cancer patients recover.