Coping with dry mouth

A few of our support group members recently put their heads together on the topic of dealing with the dry mouth that can be caused by a number of different chemotherapies. While Biotene products are the standby of many recommendations, one dental hygienist suggested the Spry product line from Xlear as a better-tasting alternative. Another member who finds herself awakened by dry mouth in the night says she finds Ice Chips a good solution that comes in a huge variety of flavors and is available in local natural food stores.


Anchorage Health Fair + Affordable Blood Tests

Saturday, Oct. 19 | American Legion Post 1 | 8 a.m. –  noon

Get affordable, comprehensive blood tests, health education, health resources and free screenings on Saturday, Oct. 19 at American Legion Post 1 from 8 a.m. – noon. The event is open to the public. No registration needed and walk-ins are welcome. For more information on the available tests and prices, visit the Alaska Health Fair’s Facebook event.

10/11 Support group meeting

We had only a small group this week, but it was support synergy at its best. A new member has just been diagnosed with recurrence of a cancer treated when she was a small child in another country, and thus is faced with beginning all over again as an adult. One of our current members, herself in treatment, is also a social worker who was able to provide a great deal of super information on resources she could start bringing together as she undertakes making treatment decisions.

We also had a good discussion on supplements and how even when they’re shown to be needed in lab tests, we still need to speak with our medical oncologist about whether we need to schedule them around our treatments. An oncological naturopath can also be a great resource for recommending the best doses, types, and schedule to get full value from the ones we take.

Our Sunday talk on cannabinoids

Some take-homes from our Sunday talk on cannabinoids during/after cancer treatment, include:

  • potential users must be aware that there are *many* possible drug interactions (including with tamoxifen);
  • for those exploring cannabinoids because they are interested in non-opioid pain management, there are other naturopathic options that often make sense to try first;
  • in Alaska, marijuana products undergo testing for THC levels and contaminants, but getting a specific “dosage” is not possible, because they are not sold as drugs;
  • it can be very easy to over-do edibles–since they take a long time to act and then stay in the system a long time–so those who do decide to try them must use them *very* cautiously;
  • because marijuana products are still illegal under federal law as well as in many local jurisdictions and in other countries, use while traveling ranges from impractical to dangerous.
  • a leader in U.S. research on cannabinoids is Dr. Donald Abrams, M.D., of UCSF. Those interested in the subject may want to look up his work.

Our speaker also answered questions about the difference between vaping oils and vaping marijuana directly (you will see this described some places as vaping “dry herb”). He explained that vaping oils was the activity implicated in the recent hospitalizations; however, the long-term effects of vaping dry herb are not known.

To add to these, here is the recent statement issued by the Arthritis Foundation on the use of cannabinoids in pain.

10/4 Support group meeting

Ten women attended.  One stopped by for a short time to drop off items for the healing bags.  Another woman came who was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy more than 4 years ago and is doing fine.  One woman came with her 2 daughters.  She has pancreatic cancer and is trying to find inexpensive housing in Seattle.  They will take notes about their experience and we will add that to our website.

We discussed how blood clots are a lot more common in people who have cancer.  We might want to have a speaker on this topic in the future.

Another woman who has been out of treatment for breast cancer for a couple of years is looking into starting a plant based diet.

One woman with stage 4 breast cancer has learned that she might have a genetic mutation.  She appreciates her oncologist who reminds her “I am working for you and want to make you as comfortable as possible”.

We discussed the importance of having a good pharmacist on your team.  We may add a list of great pharmacies to our resource list.

Another woman with breast cancer is expected to finally meet her oncologist this coming Monday.  She is beginning week 4 of chemotherapy and does not know the treatment plan.  She has a list of written questions to ask her doctor.

Another woman with a chondrosarcoma may have immunotherapy.  She is waiting for a 3 month CT follow up for a spot on her liver.

Hope to see everyone at Title Wave this Sunday at 2 pm when Dr. Harmon will discuss “”Pros and cons of Cannabinoids in Cancer Care”


Arthritis Foundation issues guidelines for CBD use

As covered today by public radio, the Arthritis Foundation has released guidelines for use of CBD (cannabinoids) by adults who have arthritis.

While this information pertains specifically to issues with arthritis, this represents one of the first formal guidelines for medical issues on CBD use. Such guidelines are scarce due to the persisting federal illegality of marijuana making it difficult to obtain research funding.

A number of the drugs that might potentially interact with marijuana products that are listed in this article are also ones that may be used by people undergoing treatment for cancer or treatment side effects. In addition to your doctor, who may not be familiar with the biochemistry of cannabinoids due to the lack of high-quality research, checking with an oncological naturopath or pharmacist might be helpful in identifying areas where caution is advised.

Discussion with Dr. Jason Harmon: “Pros & Cons of Cannabinoids in Cancer Care”

Autumn Tea with Women Listen 2 p.m., Sunday, October 6 @Title Wave Books 1360 West Northern Lights Blvd.

Cannabinoids—the chemical compounds found in, or derived from, cannabis plants (marijuana) have been found helpful for cancer pain and treatment-related nausea. But, as the American Cancer Association has warned, “Relying on marijuana alone as treatment while avoiding or delaying conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences.”

So – can use of cannabinoids ever be done safely and responsibly to support cancer care? What are some possible problems or complications? And what do you tell (or ask) your doctor?

Answering your most-asked questions, Dr. Harmon discusses the pros and cons, and shares information from a naturopath’s perspective.

Naturopathic Doctor Jason Harmon, ND FABNO, a co-founder of Anchorage’s Avante Medical Center, LLC, graduated from Bastyr University as a Naturopathic Primary Care Physician and is board certified in Naturopathic Oncology. Since 1999, he has provided family practice care with a specialty in integrative cancer therapy. He is also co-founder of the national Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians (OncANP), which seeks to advance the philosophy, science and practice of naturopathic medicine in oncology care, providing “evidence-informed guidance on safe and effective use of natural and supportive therapies when combined with conventional treatment.”