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Fungal Infections, Cannabis Use and Cancer Patients

Today’s segment focuses on the immunocompromised population and the link between fungal infections and cannabis use…specifically to people with cancer, who are actively going through treatment.  This is very important information and it’s rarely discussed at oncology appointments.  This article today is not addressing the use of medical marijuana, or the use of other forms/routes of marijuana – it is specifically addressing the immunocompromised and the risk of fungal infections.

I get that cancer patients sometimes use cannabis for nausea, anxiety, pain, lack of appetite, etc. and your doctor probably understands that too.  But natural is not always better.  The marijuana industry is not regulated, and marijuana is notorious for carrying mold spores, and mold is a fungus.  When marijuana is smoked, those mold spores get inhaled directly into the lungs.  This is a concern because mold loves to live in a warm, wet environment, which is exactly what the bases of our lungs provide – a warm, wet environment.  Now, for the average person, our immune system could probably handle that abuse, but for cancer patients going through treatment, they are frequently immunocompromised.  This is a big fancy word meaning these persons don’t have a robust immune system and they’re at risk for infection.

I’ve taken care of patients who were actively going through chemotherapy treatment, who insisted on smoking pot, and developed a fungal infection.  This scenario is especially heartbreaking because her cancer was curable.  Her cancer isn’t what killed her – the fungal infection in her lungs is what ultimately took her life and she died from respiratory failure.  It is heartbreaking!  And she’s not the only one of my patients who have developed a fungal infection in his/her lungs.  Fungal infections are not bacterial infections.  They are extremely difficult to get rid of and can be both drug resistant and life threatening. 

 In 2020, the CDC reported on a 2016 study that showed cannabis patients were  3 ½ times more likely to develop a fungal infection, compared to those that did not use cannabis.

And it is not just the government that’s aware of this problem, our marijuana growers know it too.  Leaf Nation wrote an article about the issue and acknowledge the problem in January of this year 2021 and updated it in 2022.

As you can tell, cancer patients are near and dear to my heart.  I know that this is exactly what God created me to do – to take care of cancer patients.  And let me tell you, with everything going on with treatment, scans, labs, side effects, etc., the last thing a cancer patient needs is one more complication…one more issue added to their medical record profile.  With a fungal infection comes medications, which equates to more medication side effects. 

Common symptoms of a fungal infection can include a dry cough and shortness of breath early on, and  could later lead to chest pain, fevers, and chills, just to name a few.

So please, for your own safety, please, please, please do not smoke it.  I know many people are fond of edibles and cook with the plant – that is strictly up to you.   

And lastly, remember to follow the science.  We can find whatever we want to hear on the Internet these days.  There is a ton of misinformation on the world wide web.  Stay safe.

Hope you find this helpful.  As always, I’m here for you. If you’d like to talk or ask me specific questions, please click HERE and select a day and time that works best for your schedule 🙂

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