Loss of appetite is a common problem for cancer patients. Appetite loss can lead to malnutrition, loss of muscle mass, weight loss, and weakness. Wasting--a combination of weight loss and loss of muscle--is a serious complication of cancer and cancer treatment.
Causes of Loss of Appetite
There are a multitude of reasons cancer patients may lose their appetites. Some cancers, particularly ovarian, stomach, and pancreatic cancers, effect metabolism. Cancer symptoms, such as an enlarged spleen or buildup of fluid in the abdomen, can put pressure on the stomach, causing the patient to feel full even though they're not. Cancer medications themselves can also cause loss of appetite. Chemotherapy can alter perceptions of taste, and it is not uncommon for cancer patients to lose their sense of taste completely, making eating a chore. Chemotherapy patients commonly experience nausea and vomiting.
Medical Marijuana Stimulates Appetite and May Restore Sense of Taste
With the growing support for medical marijuana laws, researchers have begun exploring how and why cannabis aids cancer patients. Although the exact mechanism is still unknown, numerous studies over the past decade have supported its effectiveness. A 2011 study published in "The Annals of Oncology", found that 64 percent of patients taking a THC pill--THC is one of the active compounds in medical marijuana--reported increased appetite. Patients also reported that food tasted better while taking THC.
Cannabis' Long-Term Relationship With Cancer Treatment
Medical marijuana has been successfully used to treat loss of appetite, and wasting, in cancer patients for over 20 years. It's so effective in combating the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy as well that synthetic THC, under the brand name Marinol, has been on the market since 1985. Marinol is also approved to treat weight loss and poor appetite in AIDS patients. The American Cancer Society itself agrees that medical marijuana can be beneficial, both in alleviating chemotherapy-induced nausea and stimulating appetite and promotes further research into the area.
Low THC concentrations have been found to be more stimulating than higher concentrated, more psychoactive mixtures. Oral administration may be the most effective form of delivery for cannabis products intended to stimulate the appetite. It provides a faster means of delivery since it's rapidly absorbed through the tissues of the mouth, and edible products such as cannabis-infused lollipops can be the easiest means of administration for those who have difficulty ingesting solid food.