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Study: Cannabis Use Among US Cancer Patients Common

Another study has revealed cannabis use is prevalent among cancer patients in the USA – but often their oncologists don’t know.

In this latest study, patients with various types of cancers residing in states where medical cannabis is legal and who were being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center between March and August 2021 completed an online or phone survey on cannabis use.

Among the 1258 respondents, 31% reported using cannabis after diagnosis. Cannabis use in the year prior to diagnosis was strongly associated with use after diagnosis had been made.

The primary reasons provided for using cannabis:

  • difficulty sleeping (48%)
  • stress, anxiety, or depression (46%)
  • pain (42%).

Among the respondents who were using cannabis medicinally, 70-90% reported improvement and less than 5% reported any symptom worsened. The proportion using cannabis varied greatly depending on the type of cancer patients had:  ranging from 25% for lung cancer to 59% for testicular cancer. The researchers also noted compared to lung cancer patients, gastrointestinal cancer patients were more likely to use cannabis.

An important revelation was just 25% discussed their cannabis use with their healthcare providers.

“Oncologists may not know about their patients’ cannabis use,” state the researchers. “To improve decision making about cannabis use during cancer care, research is needed to determine benefits and harms of cannabis use.”

The study has been published in the journal Supportive Care in Cancer.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) was founded in 1884 as New York Cancer Hospital. Today, MSK boasts more than 120 research laboratories focused on better understanding every type of the disease. MSK states it also operates one of the largest clinical trials programs for cancer in the USA.

“Patients who choose to participate in a trial at MSK receive the most advanced cancer treatment available, sometimes years before it’s offered anywhere else.”

On a related note, a Canadian study published earlier this year indicated medical cannabis has the potential to alleviate pain safely and effectively  in cancer patients. and could help reduce the number of medications, including opioids, cancer patients require.

Beyond addressing symptoms of and managing cancer, medicinal cannabis use is also fairly common among cancer survivors. It was found that those in this group were more likely to use oral consumption methods such as oils and edibles.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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