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Half of US breast cancer patients use cannabis alongside treatment

A study also revealed that many patients do not share this information with their doctors

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breast cancer patients use cannabis

New research indicates that almost half of US adults with breast cancer use cannabis alongside their cancer treatment to manage symptoms.

The breast cancer study, published in the American Cancer Society journal, Cancer, also found that many do not discuss their cannabis consumption with their doctors.

Cancer patients often turn to cannabis for symptom relief alongside their treatment, with symptoms including pain, fatigue, nausea and other difficulties depending on the type of cancer and treatment.

Cancer is also one of the qualifying conditions for a prescription in several different US states. However many doctors feel they do not have the knowledge to discuss it patients, making more education essential for those working in healthcare.

Cancer study

Researchers conducted an anonymous online survey designed to examine cannabis use among adults who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The participants were all members of the online communities, breastcancer.org and heathline.com.

The results revealed that of the 612 participants, 42 per cent reported using cannabis for symptom relief which included pain, insomnia, anxiety, stress and nausea. Among those, 75 per cent said it was extremely helpful at relieving their symptoms while 79 per cent said they used it during treatment such as systemic therapies, radiation and surgery.

Almost half of the participants who consumed cannabis believed that it can be used to treat cancer itself despite its effectiveness being unclear. Most participants believed that cannabis products are safe.

Patients in the survey used a wide variety of products with various qualities and purities. Half of the participants sought information online. They felt that other patients were the most helpful source of information while doctors ranked low on the list.

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Most of the participants who sought information on cannabis use for medical purposes were unsatisfied with the information they were given.

Lead author Marisa Weiss, of Lankenau Medical Center, said: “Our study highlights an important opportunity for providers to initiate informed conversations about medical cannabis with their patients, as the evidence shows that many are using medical cannabis without our knowledge or guidance.”

She added: “Not knowing whether or not our cancer patients are using cannabis is a major blind spot in our ability to provide optimal care. As healthcare providers, we need to do a better job of initiating informed conversations about medical cannabis with our patients to make sure their symptoms and side effects are being adequately managed while minimising the risk of potential adverse effects, treatment interactions, or non-adherence to standard treatments due to misinformation about the use of medical cannabis to treat cancer.”

Read more: Survey shows just under half of all Americans have tried cannabis

Events

Menopause: Could CBD offer relief from symptoms?

Increasingly women are finding cannabinoids helpful in managing some of the menopause symptoms.

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Menopause: A small bottle of oil on a surface surrounded by cannabis leaves

Ahead of a new webinar on cannabis and menopause, we share the stories of women who have found cannabinoids helpful in managing symptoms.

Rachel’s story

At first, Rachel had struggled to conceive naturally and was delighted when her first round of IVF was successful and went on to give birth to her son. A year later, after going to the hospital for a routine check-up, she was surprised to have received a call asking her to come for an emergency scan. She then found out she had a 12cm tumour on one of her ovaries. She then had surgery to remove it and was left with half an ovary.

“After my initial surgery, I was advised to get a hysterectomy to fully deal with the tumour. At first, I had resisted, but eventually, I felt I needed to go through with it. Having the hysterectomy meant that I went into premature menopause. I had really struggled to come to terms with this as I wanted to have a second child. But I knew I had to carry on and help other women who have had the same experiences as me.

Rachel had already been using CBD to help her deal with poor sleep and anxiety. She found that CBD was really helpful in dealing with her menopausal symptoms such as low mood and hot flushes.

“The CBD was transformational, I found that I could sleep through the night and my anxiety levels had gone way down. It has completely changed my life helped me to deal with my symptoms and the stress and anxiety associated with menopause.”

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Cannabis medicines and menopause

Cannabis Health, Integro Medical Clinics and Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS), PLEA and Primary Care Cannabis Network present a webinar that will focus on the challenging experiences of women who have found cannabis medicines helpful in managing the symptoms of menopause.

Menopause: An event image advertising a panel discussion around women's cannabis and menopause

Menopause and perimenopause symptoms are chronically poorly managed in the modern healthcare system.

Many women are simply told to ‘manage their stress better, lose some weight’ or ‘do more exercise’ when seeking medical treatment for symptoms that can have a huge impact on their day to day lives, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, low libido, headaches and hot flushes.

This is due to several factors, both cultural and medical. While women often feel ashamed to speak openly about their experiences due to stigma, many doctors lack the training and time to treat symptoms effectively.

Increasingly women are finding cannabinoids helpful in managing some of the menopause symptoms.

Since the legalisation of cannabis-based medicines two years ago, female patients have been able to discover that the rebalancing of their endocannabinoid system can be incredibly helpful in the management of conditions ranging from endometriosis, bladder and nerve pain, gynaecological pain and PMS to mental health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Aimed at both the general public and caregivers, the event will explore the experiences of women who have lived with perimenopause and menopause symptoms and how they have found cannabis-based medicines helpful.

We will discuss openly and candidly the realities of the transition and the stigma surrounding it in society.

READ MORE  Menopause and medical cannabis - how we're tackling the stigma

Expert speakers include:

 

Menopause: Dr Sally Ghazaleh

Dr Sally Ghazaleh – Female Health Consultant at Integro Clinics. She specialises in managing patients with lower back pain, neck pain, neuropathic pain, abdominal pain, cancer pain and complex regional pain syndrome.

 

Menopause: Dr Mayur Bodan

Dr Mayur Bodani – A neuropsychiatrist with over 25 years of experience, he has successfully treated many patients with psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis, dementia and many other conditions.

Patient speakers include:

Lauren

Lauren CB – having been a successful mental health nurse for 30 years, Lauren had to give up her career after being diagnosed with primary progressive MS. She has found cannabis medicines helpful in dealing with her MS symptoms and menopausal symptoms.

Rachel Mason

Rachel Mason – founder of ‘Our Remedy‘, a wellness brand for women. She has found CBD to be very helpful in dealing with her menopausal symptoms.

The webinar is completely free of charge, click here to register 

 

For more information visit www.integroclinics.com

Email: Contact@integroclinics.com

Twitter: @clinicsintegro

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Women's health

World Menopause Day: How medical cannabis is helping women manage symptoms

A third of the UK female population are experiencing menopausal symptoms – can medical cannabis help?

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menopause concept
Around 13 million women are going through the menopause in the UK

Around a third of the UK female population are thought to be going through the menopause, but many report feeling isolated and unsupported by their doctors. Can medical cannabis help manage symptoms?

“Hot sweats? It was more like a nuclear reaction,” says Lauren, a 48-year-old former mental health nurse.

“It’s awful when you’re thrown into that, you feel low and weak, it’s as though your life force is ebbing away.”

Lauren was plunged into the menopause suddenly after a hysterectomy at the age of 38. 

“I literally came out of surgery, they took me up to the ward and 10 minutes later I felt as if I had an infection in my body, I was burning up,” she says.

“A doctor came over and said ‘you can’t be experiencing any symptoms yet, you’ve only just had the operation’. He just disregarded how I was feeling.”

Lauren

Working on a mental health ward for three decades, Lauren saw first hand how women were dismissed as having mental health issues, despite presenting with clear menopausal symptoms. 

“We had patients on the ward aged 50 and above, experiencing suicidal thoughts, having made suicide attempts, all which [can be] linked to a chronic lack of oestrogen in the body,” she explains.

“But that was seen as a mental disorder rather than considering that it could be because they’re going into the menopause or perimenopause.”

In her own health journey, she continued to feel unsupported by clinicians and stigmatised by others who failed to understand the extent of her symptoms. 

“There was a lack of understanding of not just the physical but the psychological and the emotional aspect of it. Your hormones are depleting, it’s going to affect the way you think and feel about yourself and the world,” says Lauren. 

“Even at work, in the NHS, the menopause procedure from HR was to give me a fan to put on my desk. How patronising and condescending is that?”

The impact of menopause

According to the British Menopause Society (BMS), menopausal symptoms affect more than 75 per cent of women and over 25 per cent describe severe symptoms. These last an average of seven years, with one in three women experiencing symptoms beyond this. 

While hot sweats are commonly linked to the menopause, many people are unaware of other symptoms, which include low mood, anxiety, depression, insomnia, low libido, poor memory and brain fog. These, amongst others, can be debilitating and have a huge impact on a woman’s daily life. And the lack of awareness and understanding mean sometimes women themselves may not realise why they are experiencing them.

Perimenopause or ‘menopause transition’ can begin years before the final menstrual period and may last for four to eight years.

Women experiencing perimenopause in particular, are less likely to be aware of what’s happening to them as the emotional symptoms can begin before any physical changes to the body, according to Dr Dani Gordon, a medical cannabis prescriber who specialises in women’s health. 

“Women will come to me saying, ‘I feel like an alien is taking over my brain. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m tearful all the time, or on edge and I just can’t seem to get my emotions under control’,” she says.

“These emotional dysregulation symptoms can come before the night sweats and before the periods start to get irregular, so you could still have a pretty regular cycle and still be entering into the beginnings of that transition.”

Symptoms can be so debilitating that a survey of almost 4,000 women, published in October by not-for-profit Newson Health Research and Education, highlighted that 99 per cent felt their perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms led to a negative impact on their careers. 

In a BMS National Survey in 2016, 47 per cent of those who needed to take a day off indicated that they would not tell their employer the real reason behind their absence.

Despite this, menopause and perimenopause symptoms are poorly understood in the modern healthcare system. A documentary hosted by Davina McCall earlier this year started a viral conversation, the fact that it hit a nerve highlighting just how many women feel unsupported by their GPs who are often a first port-of-call for those experiencing symptoms.

Lack of understanding

According to Dr Gordon – who has heard first hand from patients and her own peers – women are frequently told to “manage their stress better”, “lose some weight” or “do more exercise” when seeking medical treatment for menopause symptoms.

There’s so many reasons why [symptoms] may be poorly treated,” she explains. 

“One of them is cultural and the fact that we don’t talk about menopause. Our culture is based on this obsession with youth and women after a certain age don’t want to talk about the transitions that they are experiencing, even though they’re completely natural and normal and everyone goes through them.” 

The other factor is the medical system itself. Earlier this year it was revealed that 41 per cent of UK universities do not have mandatory menopause education on the curriculum at their medical schools. The BMS does offer additional training courses for GPs on the menopause, but these cost time and money which many simply don’t have considering the increasing pressure they are already facing. 

Rachel Mason had a hysterectomy at the age of 30 after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She describes trying to access support with perimenopause as “horrendous” despite receiving excellent care during her cancer treatment. 

“With everything else I can’t fault the care, it has been amazing but when it comes to the menopause there’s no support there,” she says.

“I tried to move my menopause clinic appointment forward as I was in a really bad place but was told they only run it once a month – can you imagine how many women need to go to that?”

As GPs have no formal training in this area, women can wait up to a year for a diagnosis, according to Dr Louise Newson, ​​a GP and renowned menopause specialist, with only around 37 percent being offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT). 

Dr Gordon believes this may be down to GPs not feeling confident in the prescribing of this treatment. 

Dr Dani Gordon is a world-leading expert in medical cannabis and women’s health

She explains: “Many GPs, it seems, are not confident in the differences between body identical HRT and more traditional progestin containing HRT.

“After speaking with patients who had tried to have these conversations with their GP about wanting to try body identicals or about the specific non-drug approaches they can take for different symptoms, or about the latest research into what supplements may or may not be helpful.” 

The role of cannabinoids

Dr Gordon has successfully treated many women experiencing menopausal symptoms with cannabinoids and is in the process of opening her own private integrative medicine clinic, Resilience Medicine in the UK.

“When women are going into the perimenopause phase, their ability to regulate stress usually gets worse, because the hormones are more difficult to balance, and when you throw extra stress hormones into the mix it makes the imbalances worse in the female hormones as well,” she says.

“Women are told, ‘oh just learn how to manage your stress better’, but if your hormones are raging all over the place and you have high cortisol, the stress hormone, it’s really hard to manage your stress because physiologically you’re going to be on edge, irritable, anxious, tired but wired. What cannabinoids can do is give people a tool to help get those symptoms under control.”

While menopause isn’t currently a primary indication for the prescription of cannabis-based medicines in the UK, the symptoms such as anxiety and sleep components can respond well to the treatment. 

“Even if someone can’t take HRT they can still usually take cannabinoids to help with symptoms,” continues Dr Gordon. 

“We have cannabinoid receptors in our womb, in our uterus, throughout our female reproductive tract, and also in the brain area, the hypothalamus that deals with the stress response. This is called the HPA axis and it also controls what’s called the HPO axis which is how the brain talks to the ovaries.

“When we introduce a high-CBD during the day and then a little bit of THC to help people sleep at night, the perimenopausal symptom clusters respond well to this in the majority of cases, because CBD can help reduce the stress response.”

Several overseas studies suggest increasing numbers of women are turning to cannabis to help manage their symptoms. A study from the University of Alberta in Canada found that one in every three women near the menopause transition uses cannabis for symptom management. Likewise, the North American Menopause Society reported earlier this year that out of over 200 women in California, who participated in the Midlife Women Veterans Health Survey, around 27 per cent reported having used or were currently using cannabis.

Lauren had been taking a high dose of HRT for around a decade when she became unwell and doctors halted the medication, fearing she was having a stroke. After being prescribed medical cannabis for primary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) – which she was diagnosed with last year – she found it was actually helping her menopause symptoms too. 

“MS is bad but some of the symptoms from the menopause were actually 20 times worse,” she says.

“Medical cannabis has given me a new lease of life. I take it in the morning and it gives me the energy to get out of the house and go to the gym. 

“In the evening, if I’m having problems sleeping or with hot sweats, I take an indica strain and that just relaxes my body so I don’t feel stressed and anxious about the symptoms I am having.”

Rachel Mason, Menopause

Rachel Mason is founder of Our Remedy CBD

Experiencing the benefits of cannabis also gave her the confidence to speak more openly with her GP about what she was going through. She now volunteers with PLEA (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) to help improve awareness so others can access cannabis-based medicines. 

“I know how good it’s made me feel, so I’m more able to put my foot down and say ‘this is helping me, I know what I need’. Life is too short to feel unwell when there are things that you can do, you’ve got to take back the power for yourself,” she says.

“I would like to see GPs point women in a direction where they can have a discussion about medical cannabis. It might be something that they’ve never tried or they’ve been against, but it’s just about having that advocacy and giving the information to the healthcare professionals so that when they are offering choices to women they’ve got this in their toolbox.”

Tackling the stigma

Despite the fact that there are around 13 million menopausal women in the UK, it can be an isolating experience, particularly for someone going through perimenopause in their 30s as Rachel was. 

“I was really scared to go through the menopause, I didn’t tell anyone because there’s such a stigma attached to it, regardless of your age, I was worried how people would react,” she admits.

“I think if I had a group of friends who were all going through it at the same time, we would talk about it and you wouldn’t feel so alone, but none of them have the same experience.

“My biggest concern was if I would still enjoy going out and socialising. I was so confused about the person I would be, but I can honestly say I don’t feel like I’ve actually changed at all.”

Rachel went on to set up her own CBD brand, focusing on women’s health. Speaking about her situation has encouraged other women in her life to open up.

“My dad’s partner was having horrendous hot flushes, she suffered for two years and didn’t know who to talk to. She was embarrassed. When I started opening up about my situation she did too and I got her started on CBD, she said they virtually stopped,” Rachel says.“Once you break through that stigma it is beneficial for everyone.”

Lauren agrees, she adds: “For me the biggest thing is the mental and emotional feelings that come with menopause, you can feel isolated, but we are 50 percent of this country, we shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Our voices need to be heard.”

 

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Lauren, Rachel and a panel of clinical experts will join us to discuss the experiences of women who find medical cannabis helpful in managing symptoms of menopause on Tuesday 30 November at 7pm.

Register for FREE here 

Menopause: An event image advertising a panel discussion around women's cannabis and menopause

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Women's health

Menopause and medical cannabis – how we’re tackling the stigma

A new event will explore how medical cannabis can help women manage symptoms of menopause

Published

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menopause

Ahead of World Menopause Day on Monday 18 October, Cannabis Health, Integro Medical Clinics and Cannabis Patients Advocacy and Support Services (CPASS) announce a new event exploring how cannabis can help manage symptoms.

The third episode in groundbreaking webinar series exploring the role of medical cannabis in women’s health, will focus on the multi-faceted and often challenging experiences of menopause and perimenopause.

Taking place online on Tuesday 30 November, a panel of expert clinicians and patients will discuss the experiences of  women who have found these medicines helpful in managing their symptoms.

Menopause: An event image advertising a panel discussion around women's cannabis and menopause

Menopause and perimenopause symptoms are chronically poorly treated in the modern healthcare system.

Many women are frequently, simply told to ‘manage their stress better’, ‘lose some weight’ or ‘do more exercise’ when seeking medical treatment for debilitating menopause symptoms which include anxiety, depression, insomnia, low libido, headaches and hot flushes, amongst others.

This lack of recognition can be  both cultural and medical. Women often feel ashamed to speak openly about their experiences due to stigma and many doctors lack the training and time to treat symptoms effectively.

Menopause management

Increasingly women are finding cannabinoids helpful in managing some of their menopause symptoms.

Since the legalisation of cannabis-based medicines two years ago, female patients have been able to discover that the rebalancing of their endocannabinoid system can be incredibly helpful in the management of conditions ranging from Endometriosis, bladder and nerve pain, gynaecological pain and PMS to mental health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Aimed at both the general public and caregivers, the event will explore the experiences of women who have lived with perimenopause and menopause symptoms and how they have found cannabis-based medicines helpful.

READ MORE  Why women in pain are turning to medical cannabis

Expert speakers:

Dr Sally Ghazaleh

Dr Sally Ghazaleh, MENOPAUSE EVENT

Dr Sally Ghazaleh is a pain management specialist

Women’s health consultant at Integro Clinics. She specialises in managing patients with lower back pain, neck pain, neuropathic pain, abdominal pain, cancer pain and complex regional pain syndrome.

 

Dr Mayur Bodani

Dr Mayur Bodani

A neuropsychiatrist with over 25 years of experience, he has successfully treated many patients with psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, psychosis, dementia and many other conditions.

 

Sarah Higgins CNS

Sarah Higgins CNS

Sarah is a clinical nurse specialist, with over 10 years of experience working in the NHS. She is also the women’s health lead at non-profit organisation CPASS Nurses Arm.

 

Patient speakers:

Lauren

Lauren

Having been a successful mental health nurse for 30 years, Lauren had to give up her career after being diagnosed with primary progressive MS. She has found cannabis medicines helpful in dealing with her MS symptoms and menopausal symptoms.

 

Rachel Mason

menopause

Rachel Mason

Rachel is founder of ‘Our Remedy’, a wellness brand for women. She has found CBD to be very helpful in dealing with her menopausal symptoms.

 

Patient story

Lauren worked successfully as a mental health nurse for 30 years before menopause symptoms, alongside the symptoms of her primary progressive multiple sclerosis became so debilitating that she could no longer work and found daily life too difficult to handle.

“When I discovered cannabis medicines (CBMP’s), they completely changed my life. CBMP’s eased my anxiety and meant that I could get a decent night’s sleep. The fact that I was well-rested, meant that I could start to lightly exercise again, which was unthinkable a year ago,” Lauren said.

READ MORE  Government working to ‘find a way through’ as Brexit blocks access to medical cannabis

Medical cannabis has helped Lauren to deal with anxiety, brain fog, and gave her an overall sense of wellbeing. Lauren has found cannabis medicines have given her life back, she can once again exercise and return to her daily routine.

The webinar takes place on Tuesday 30 November at 7pm and is completely free of charge, go to the Eventbrite link here to register.

 

Integro Medical Clinics Ltd always recommends remaining under the care and treatment of your GP and specialist for your condition while using cannabis-based medicines. The Integro clinical team would always prefer to work in collaboration with them.

Website: www.integroclinics.com
Email: Contact@integroclinics.com
Twitter: @clinicsintegro

 

Read more: Canadian study shows more women using cannabis for menopause

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