Study: Approximately 33% of Cancer Patients Utilize Marijuana; Majority Report Alleviation of Symptoms

Study: Approximately 33% of Cancer Patients Utilize Marijuana; Majority Report Alleviation of Symptoms

A new survey conducted by researchers affiliated with the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer aimed to gain insight into the perspectives of cancer patients regarding their use of cannabis to manage their cancer symptoms. The survey included 1,258 cancer patients with different types of cancer who were treated at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center between March and August 2021.

The researchers used multivariable logistic regression to analyze the data and estimate the association between cancer type and cannabis use, while adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics and prior cannabis use. All respondents resided in states where the use of medicinal cannabis for cancer is legal.

The results of the survey revealed that 31% of the respondents reported using cannabis products following their cancer diagnosis. The percentage varied across different cancer types, with lung cancer patients reporting a usage rate of 25% and testicular cancer patients reporting a rate of 59%. Younger age, lower education level, and specific cancer types were found to be associated with cannabis use.

Among those who used cannabis to alleviate symptoms, the majority reported improvement in their symptoms. The most common reasons for using cannabis were to assist with sleep, followed by stress, anxiety or depression, and pain management. Less than 5% of respondents reported that any symptom worsened as a result of cannabis use.

Interestingly, despite the widespread use of cannabis among cancer patients, only 25% of respondents disclosed their cannabis use to their healthcare providers. This finding aligns with previous research showing a hesitancy among patients to discuss their cannabis use with medical professionals.

In conclusion, the survey demonstrated that cannabis use among cancer patients is common across various sociodemographic and clinical populations. Many patients obtain cannabis independently without involvement from their oncologists. Therefore, the authors emphasize the importance of oncologists and other members of the oncology team providing education about the benefits and potential harms of cannabis use specifically for cancer patients. They suggest that interventions to improve cannabis education and communication should not solely target oncologists who treat specific types of cancer, as cannabis use appears consistent across various patient characteristics.

It is worth noting that while the survey provides valuable insights into the patterns of cannabis use among cancer patients, the evidence regarding the effectiveness of cannabis as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms is still growing. However, several studies have shown promising outcomes in using medical cannabis for symptom relief in cancer patients. For example, a study conducted in May 2023 found that medical cannabis, when combined with other drugs, is a safe and effective treatment for pain caused by cancer. Another study published in 2022 revealed that medicinal cannabis reduced pain and the need for opiate painkillers in cancer patients.

In summary, this survey sheds light on the prevalence of cannabis use among cancer patients and highlights the potential benefits it offers in managing symptoms. However, further research is needed to fully understand the benefits and harms of cannabis use during cancer care. With improved education and communication between healthcare providers and patients, cancer patients can make more informed decisions regarding their use of cannabis as part of their overall treatment plan.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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