Cancer Patients Frequently Turning to Cannabis, But Many Oncology Specialists Still Reluctant to Recommend It

Royal Oak, MI: An estimated one in four cancer patients acknowledge using medical cannabis, according to survey data published in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology. Nevertheless, most oncology health care providers remain reluctant to formally recommend cannabis therapy to their patients because they do not believe that they are sufficiently educated on the topic.

According to the survey, 24.5 percent of respondents attending an oncology office in Michigan said that they used medical cannabis. Of those, 81 percent said that it mitigated their pain, 77 percent said that it improved their appetite, and 73 percent said that it reduced their anxiety. Fifty-five percent said that cannabis “improved their ability to tolerate [cancer] treatment.”

However, separate survey data published in the journal Clinical Oncology reported that many oncology health care specialists remain unwilling to explicitly recommend cannabis therapy to their patients. Investigators reported that 84 percent of respondents “believed that they lacked sufficient knowledge about cannabis to make recommendations.” More than six in ten expressed concerns over their inability to recommend a specific cannabis dosing regimen to their patients.

The latter findings are consistent with those of several prior studies – such as those here, here, here, here, and here – indicating that health care professionals possess significant knowledge gaps with respect to the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis.

Full text of the study, “Medical cannabis in cancer patients: A survey of a community hematology oncology population,” appears in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology. Full text of the study, “Health care provider preferences for, and barriers to, cannabis use in cancer,” appears in Current Oncology.