Almost half of women with breast cancer in the US use cannabis for symptom management, according to a recent survey of an online health group.
The online support group, Breastcancer.org, Pennsylvania, US, surveyed 612 anonymous breast cancer patients – 42% of whom reported that they used cannabis for the relief of a number of symptoms associated with the disease and treatment.
Medical cannabis is legal and widely available for a number of conditions across the US, including as a treatment option for cancer. However, cannabis remains illegal, for both medicinal and recreational uses, under federal law.
The survey recorded patient demographics in addition to information on breast cancer variables such as type, stage and treatment status, and details of cannabis such as timing of use in relation to therapy, e.g., before, during or after treatment, products used, sources and perceptions of the safety of cannabis.
It was recorded that, while 42% of respondents reported some form of cannabis use associated with their treatment, a total of 64% of participating patients reported being very or extremely interested in the medicinal use of cannabis. However, only 39% of patients had discussed medical cannabis use with their clinician.
Only 23% of patients reported that their cannabis use was solely for symptom management with the remainder stating that their use was both medicinal and recreational.
Furthermore, among patients who reported cannabis use, 79% used it alongside treatment and 54% used it after treatment had concluded.
The most commonly reported reasons for using cannabis in this patient sample were for the relief of pain (78%), insomnia (70%), anxiety (57%), stress (50%) and nausea/vomiting (46%). Three-quarters of medical cannabis users believed the products to be extremely or very helpful, in relieving their symptoms.
This survey also presented interesting findings into patient opinions on the use of medical cannabis: 57% of respondents that reported using cannabis stated that they did so because they found no other way of treating their symptoms. Further, 49% stated that they used cannabis in the belief that it could treat their cancer.
The researchers of this survey reported their concern over these findings, quoting limited data available on safety, efficacy and potential drug interactions. Nonetheless, 71% of participating patients stated their belief that the benefits of cannabis outweighed its risks.