Bladder Cancer is of course an incredibly difficult disease to try and contend with, and due to the pain and suffering it causes, it is included on most state’s lists of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
In this informative guide, we are going to shed some light on a few recent studies regarding the potential use of marijuana for bladder cancer, and also provide you with a list of therapeutic strains that my help combat related symptoms.
What is Bladder Cancer?
In most instances, it is not always clear what causes bladder cancer. Bladder cancer has been linked to things as far reaching as smoking, parasitic infections, radiation, and even chemical exposure. In a recent article by MedicineNet, for example, it was found that cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor for bladder cancer, with smokers being three to four times more likely to contract the disease than non-smokers.
According to Mayo Clinic, there are three types of bladder cancer:
- Transitional cell carcinoma. Transitional cell carcinoma occurs in the cells that line the inside of your bladder. Transitional cells expand when your bladder is full, and contract when your bladder is empty. These same cells also line the inside of your ureters and urethra, and tumors can form in those places as well. Transitional cell carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer in the United States.
- Squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of cancer that appears in your bladder in response to infection and irritation. Over time, it can become malignant and spread to other areas of the body. Squamous cell bladder cancer is relatively rare in the United States, but it is more prevalent in parts of the world where certain parasitic abdominal infections (such as schistosomiasis) are common.
- Adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma is rare in the United States, representing just 2% of all bladder cancers. It begins in cells that make up mucus-secreting glands, and mostly manifests itself in the colon, mammary glands, esophagus, lungs, pancreas, and prostate.
In most cases, bladder cancer is diagnosed after a person tells his or her doctor about blood in the urine (also known as Hematuria), but you may experience any of these symptoms as well:
- Blood or blood clots in the urine
- Burning sensation or pain during urination
- Constant need for urination
- Urge to urinate throughout the night
- Lower back pain on one side of the body
Marijuana and Bladder Cancer: Breakthrough Research
In a recent 2015 publication that analyzed part of a large-scale California Men’s Health Study, medical records of over 84,000 patients were evaluated in an effort to determine what (if any) effects cannabis use had on the incidence of bladder cancer (as opposed to tobacco use).
Data from multi-ethnic men aged 45-69 years was collected over an 11-year period; 41% of the men reporting cannabis use, 57% reported using tobacco use, 27% reported using both, and 29% claimed to use neither. After an 11-year period, it was determined that 279 men (0.3% of the test population) developed bladder tumors as a result of tobacco use, cannabis use, or both.
In total, 89 cannabis users developed bladder cancer, compared to 190 non-cannabis users (including those who smoked tobacco and those who used neither tobacco nor cannabis).
Although a cause and effect relationship was not identified during the study, it was determined that cannabis use was inversely associated with bladder cancer risk in the study population. Authors of the study made the following statement, after accounting for age, race, ethnicity, and body mass index (BMI):
“Using tobacco only was associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer … whereas marijuana use only was associated with a 45% reduction in bladder cancer*.” The decreased risk was most significant in men aged 45-54.
Furthermore, the study noted that 57 percent of the test subjects smoked tobacco, and 29 percent of participants reported they didn’t smoke at all (whether it was cannabis or tobacco). Researchers also found that men who smoked cannabis had a decreased likelihood of developing bladder cancer over those who didn’t smoke at all.
Apart from helping reduce the incidence of bladder cancer, research has also shown that marijuana can have an impact on bladder health as a whole. In a recent study*, for example, it was determined that the effects of non-psychoactive cannabinoids (including CBD, CBG, THCV, and CBDV) reduced bladder contractility in mice (overactive bladder is often the result of acetylcholine-stimulated contractions).
CBG appeared to be the most effective cannabinoid in reducing overactive bladder, followed by THCV, CBD and CBDV.
Traditional Bladder Cancer Treatments
As we mentioned earlier, bladder cancer is a difficult disease to treat, and an even more difficult disease to try and live with. The outlook for people with stage 0a (non-invasive papillary) bladder cancer, however, is excellent. This is an early stage of the cancer, and is frequently treated with transurethral resection, otherwise known as TURBT.
Stages 1, 2 and 3 bladder cancer, however, are more complicated to contend with and doctors have to take into consideration a number of different things before implementing a treatment protocol.
If many tumors are present, for example, or if the tumor is very large when it is first found, an invasive procedure called radical cystectomy may be recommended. Stage 2 cancers, wherein the neoplasms have invaded the muscle layer of the bladder wall, are typically treated with either TURBT or radical cystectomy.
Marijuana Strains and Cancer
While research on marijuana for cancer is still in premature stages, over the last couple of years there have been small breakthroughs in terms of scientific findings. This, combined with the increased legality of medical cannabis in some states, has resulted in most doctors agreeing that cannabis can offer some degree of therapy and symptom relief for patients suffering from bladder cancer (and other forms of cancer).
It is important to understand, however, that cannabis cannot cure cancer. Moreover, it should be emphasized (regardless of any existing anecdotal and scientific evidence) that marijuana is not a guaranteed treatment option for bladder cancer.
That being said, it’s common knowledge that each marijuana strain has a unique effect in terms of therapy and mind/body sensation (this is due to varying THC:CBD ratios and the presence of different terpenes). As such, it has traditionally been recognized that some strains are more effective than others at targeting relief from specific cancer-related symptoms.
For the Pain
There are several strains that are thought to be effective in treating pain related to bladder cancer (as well as other forms of cancer). Some of them include:
- Blackberry Kush
- OG Kush
There are several strains that are thought to be effective in treating onset nausea related to bladder cancer (as well as other forms of cancer). Some of them include:
There are several strains that are thought to be effective in treating appetite loss related to bladder cancer (as well as other forms of cancer). Some of them include:
- Bubba Kush
- Granddaddy Purple
Final Thoughts on Marijuana and Bladder Cancer
It goes without saying that cancer of any type is a tough condition to deal with – both mentally and physically. If you have any firsthand knowledge on the topic and would like to share your story with our community, please feel free to leave your comments below, or share them on our Facebook page.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to message us with any additional questions, comments, or concerns.
[We reiterate the fact that none of the information in this article should be taken as medical or clinical advice. Cannabis is not recognized as a medicine by the FDA, as it lacks requisite clinical trials for any form of cancer. Always use cannabis at your own discretion, and whenever possible, speak with a doctor or other healthcare professional in regard to treatment options for your specific condition].