Cancer, a term that encompasses a broad group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells, is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status, making it a global health concern. Despite the significant advancements in medical research and technology, cancer continues to pose a major challenge due to its complex nature and diversity. 

This guide aims to provide an in-depth understanding of cancer, its impact, the available treatment options, and the potential role of medical marijuana in symptom management, with a specific focus on the context of New York.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Cancer

Definition and Overview of Cancer

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. There are over 100 types of cancer, including breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and lymphoma. The disease can affect any part of the body. 

It begins when the body’s normal control mechanisms stop working and old cells do not die and instead form a mass of tissue called a tumor. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body and are not life-threatening. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.

Prevalence and Impact of Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In the United States alone, it is estimated that over 1.8 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2020 and over 600,000 people died from the disease. The impact of cancer extends beyond the physical symptoms of the disease. It can have a significant psychological, social, and economic impact on individuals and families. 

The diagnosis can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression. The cost of treatment can lead to financial hardship. Despite these challenges, many people with cancer live a long time and enjoy a good quality of life, thanks to advances in detection and treatment.

Understanding Cancer

The Biology of Cancer

Cancer is fundamentally a disease of the cell. It occurs when changes (mutations) in the DNA within cells cause them to grow uncontrollably and form a mass or tumor. Not all tumors are cancerous; benign tumors do not spread and are not life-threatening. 

Malignant tumors, however, can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. This process, known as metastasis, is the primary cause of death from cancer. The mutations that lead to cancer can be inherited, or they can be acquired due to exposure to environmental factors or errors that occur when cells divide.

Types of Cancer

There are over 100 types of cancer, each classified by the type of cell that is initially affected. These include carcinoma (the most common type, which occurs in skin or tissues that line the internal organs), sarcoma (found in the bones and soft tissues), leukemia (cancer of the blood and bone marrow), lymphoma and myeloma (cancers of the immune system), and central nervous system cancers (found in the brain and spinal cord).

Causes and Risk Factors

Cancer is caused by changes (mutations) in DNA within cells. Some mutations can be inherited from our parents, while others may be acquired during life. Acquired mutations may be the result of errors that occur when cells divide or due to exposure to substances, such as certain chemicals in tobacco smoke, and certain environmental factors, such as ultraviolet rays from the sun. Certain behaviors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, poor diet, and lack of physical activity, can also increase the risk of developing cancer.

Symptoms and Diagnostic Criteria

Cancer symptoms can vary widely based on the type and stage of the cancer. Some common symptoms may include fatigue, lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin, weight changes, including unintended loss or gain, skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles, persistent cough or trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating, persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain, persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Diagnosis is made through a variety of tests that depend on the location and type of cancer, including blood tests, imaging tests, and biopsy.

The Impact of Cancer

Physical Health Consequences

The physical health consequences of cancer are significant and can vary depending on the type and stage of cancer, as well as the individual’s overall health. Common physical effects of cancer include pain, fatigue, weight loss, and changes in skin and hair. 

Cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, can also have side effects, including nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, pain, and more. Some types of cancer can lead to long-term health problems, such as lymphedema after breast cancer surgery or impotence after prostate cancer treatment.

Mental and Emotional Impact

The mental and emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis can be profound. Many individuals experience feelings of fear, anxiety, and depression. The stress of dealing with a serious illness can also lead to emotional and psychological distress. Many people with cancer find it helpful to seek support from mental health professionals, such as psychologists and social workers, as well as from support groups of other people who are dealing with cancer.

Social and Economic Impact

Cancer can also have a significant social and economic impact. Individuals with cancer may need to take time off work for treatment and recovery, which can lead to lost income. The cost of cancer treatment can also be a significant financial burden. 

Socially, individuals with cancer may experience changes in their relationships with family and friends. They may also face stigma and discrimination related to their illness. It’s important for individuals with cancer and their families to seek support to help manage these social and economic challenges.

Treatment and Management of Cancer

Current Therapies and Medications

Cancer treatment depends on the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, and the patient’s overall health. Current therapies include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, hormone therapy, stem cell transplant, and precision medicine. Medications used in cancer treatment are designed to kill cancer cells, slow the growth of cancer cells, or relieve symptoms caused by cancer.

Surgical Options

Surgery is often used to diagnose, stage, and treat cancer, and to manage certain cancer-related symptoms. The goal of cancer surgery is to remove the entire tumor, or as much of the tumor as possible. Types of cancer surgery include curative surgery, preventive surgery, diagnostic surgery, staging surgery, debulking surgery, palliative surgery, and supportive surgery.

Radiation and Chemotherapy

Radiation therapy uses high doses of radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Chemotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, which grow and divide quickly.

Emerging Treatments (Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, etc.)

Emerging treatments for cancer include immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer, and targeted therapy, which uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming normal cells. Other emerging treatments include hormone therapy, stem cell transplant, precision medicine, and clinical trials, which test new treatments to see if they are safe and effective.

Support for Individuals with Cancer

Support for individuals with cancer can come in many forms. This can include emotional support from counselors or support groups, financial assistance programs, nutritional counseling, physical therapy and exercise programs, pain management services, and palliative care, which focuses on improving the quality of life for people with serious illnesses. Many hospitals and cancer centers offer these support services.

Cancer and Medical Marijuana

Role of Medical Marijuana in Managing Cancer Symptoms

Medical marijuana has been used in various forms to help manage symptoms associated with cancer. The active compounds in marijuana, known as cannabinoids, have been found to provide relief from pain and nausea, particularly in cases where traditional pain medications are ineffective. 

The two most well-studied cannabinoids are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can help relieve pain and nausea, reduce inflammation, and act as an antioxidant, and cannabidiol (CBD), which can help treat seizures, reduce anxiety and paranoia, and counteract the “high” caused by THC.

Research and Evidence on Medical Marijuana for Cancer

Numerous studies have shown the potential benefits of medical marijuana in the treatment of cancer symptoms. For instance, small studies of smoked marijuana found that it can be helpful in treating nausea and vomiting from cancer chemotherapy. Other studies have shown that cannabinoids can slow growth and/or cause death in certain types of cancer cells growing in lab dishes. 

Some animal studies also suggest certain cannabinoids may slow growth and reduce the spread of some forms of cancer. However, while these studies show that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.

Risks and Considerations

While medical marijuana can provide relief from symptoms, it is not without risks. The most common effect of marijuana is a feeling of euphoria (“high”), but it can also lower the user’s control over movement, cause disorientation, and sometimes cause unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia. 

Smoked marijuana also delivers harmful substances to users and those close by, including many of the same substances found in tobacco smoke. Chronic users can develop an unhealthy dependence on marijuana.

Navigating Rheumatoid Arthritis in New York

State Resources and Support for Individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis

New York State provides a range of resources and support for individuals dealing with rheumatoid arthritis. The New York State Department of Health has a dedicated section for arthritis, offering information about the disease, its management, and available support services. The state also has various programs aimed at improving the quality of life for individuals living with chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

Legal and Regulatory Framework for Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in New York is governed by various laws and regulations. These rules ensure that patients receive the highest standard of care. They cover aspects such as the qualifications of healthcare providers, the approval and use of medications, and the rights and responsibilities of patients.

Accessing Medical Marijuana for Rheumatoid Arthritis in New York

In New York, patients with rheumatoid arthritis can access medical marijuana if they have been certified by a registered practitioner. The state’s Medical Marijuana Program provides detailed information about the process, which includes obtaining a certification from a registered practitioner, applying for a registry ID card, and purchasing medical marijuana products from a registered organization’s dispensing facility. It’s important to note that only certain forms of medical marijuana are allowed, and there are restrictions on its use.


Cancer is a complex and multifaceted disease that impacts millions of individuals worldwide, including a significant number in New York. The journey through diagnosis, treatment, and management of cancer can be a challenging one, filled with physical, emotional, and social hurdles. However, with the advancements in medical science, the emergence of new treatments, and the availability of supportive resources, there is hope for individuals diagnosed with cancer.

The potential role of medical marijuana in managing cancer symptoms has opened up new avenues for symptom management. While research is ongoing, early findings indicate that medical marijuana could offer relief for certain cancer-related symptoms and treatment side effects. However, it’s crucial for individuals to consult with healthcare professionals and consider all potential risks and benefits before starting any new treatment.

Navigating the landscape of cancer treatment in New York involves understanding the legal and regulatory framework, accessing state resources, and exploring all available treatment options, including medical marijuana. By empowering themselves with knowledge and support, individuals with cancer can make informed decisions about their health and wellbeing.

Note: This article’s content is provided for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional legal or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or queries regarding laws, regulations, or your health, you should always consult a lawyer, physician, or other licensed practitioner.