Many breast cancer patients use marijuana and don’t tell their doctors
Many breast cancer patients use cannabis To ease disease symptoms and treatments, few are telling their doctors, according to a new survey.
In an anonymous online survey of more than 600 adults with breast cancer, 42 percent reported using some form of Cannabis Relief Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, pain, insomnia, anxiety and stress, according to the report, published Tuesday in the journal Cancer.
“They do not use it to advance, but to manage Breast cancer side effects or breast cancer treatments,” said study author Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org and an oncologist at Lankinaw Medical Center in Wynwood, Pennsylvania. “It can be a very difficult journey. People struggle to survive and enjoy a reasonable quality of life.”
To get a closer look at breast cancer patients’ use of cannabis, Weiss and her colleagues sent a 47-question survey to 612 adults — 605 women and five men. The other two preferred not to answer the question about sex. They were all recruited via Breastcancer.org and Healthline.comSociety.
While 39 percent said they mentioned cannabis to their doctors, only 4 percent of the 306 participants who said they wanted more information turned to their doctors for information on the drug. Most sought information from other sources, including websites or cannabis dispensary employees. Eighteen percent turned to a family member or friend. Most said they were not satisfied with the information they received.
Of the 42 percent who said they use cannabis, 78 percent said they use it for pain relief, 70 percent to help with insomnia, 57 percent to relieve anxiety, 51 percent to deal with stress, 46 percent to stop nausea and vomiting; Most, 79 percent, said they had used cannabis during treatment.
Respondents reported using multiple sources of cannabis: Seventy percent said they used food items, and 65 percent said they used liquids or tinctures. Slightly more than half said they smoke and about half use vape pens. They also reported using three to four different products on average
“Few are telling their doctors about it, and many are getting information, as well as products, from family members,” Weiss said.
The majority of respondents, 70 percent, believed that cannabis should be viewed as a botanical medicine, that natural products are better than “chemicals” and that the benefits of cannabis outweigh the risks. Furthermore, 49 percent of cannabis users said they believed medical cannabis could be used to treat cancer itself.
While acknowledging that cannabis can bring relief to breast cancer patients, Weiss worries that patients aren’t consulting their doctors.
“Some of these products can interact with the treatments they’re taking, and there’s a safety issue there,” she said. “We want to make sure they recover from their symptoms without interfering with treatments.”
One concern, Weiss said, is that the liver is involved in the metabolism of many treatments in addition to cannabis. “We don’t want to overwork the liver,” she said.
She added that it is not currently known how cannabis interacts with the treatments.
Dr. Stephanie Bernick, chief of breast surgery at Mount Sinai West in New York, said the new study was “extremely exciting.” “Our patients have been using marijuana to treat cancer for years and years,” she added. “So we learned that it helps with symptoms.”
The new report shows that “not many patients talk to their doctors about it,” Bernick said. She added that this means doctors can’t take cannabis into account when deciding doses for cancer drugs.
“It might alter the metabolism of these drugs when getting those chemotherapy doses is really important,” Bernick said.
Bernick said more research is needed on the use of cannabis during cancer treatments to find out interactions and doses.
“It also points to the importance of patients being open with their doctors,” Bernick said. “And clinicians need to ask specifically about that. Maybe they need to start the conversation.”