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