Study shows why cancer patients are asking for medicinal cannabis

I can tell you, it’s true! Many cancer patients are asking their clinicians for medicinal cannabis – but worryingly,  around one in four patients believing it will help in control or cure the cancer, a Victorian study has found.

This study was carried out by a team at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre and Parkville Integrated Palliative Care Service, lead by Dr Stacey Panozzo, investigated the characteristics and medicinal cannabis requests of 1700 patients with breast, colorectal, melanoma and oesophageal cancer patients attending the three centres over a six month period in 2018-2019.

The study was also featured in this Limbic Oncology article.

Pain, nausea and loss of appetite were the main reasons cited by patients for requesting information of a prescription for medicinal cannabis.

However the around a quarter of the 104 cancer patients – of whom 87% had metastatic disease – intended to use medicinal cannabis for cancer control or cancer cure.

Of the 104 consultations that reported a discussion about medicinal cannabis, 60% involved requests for more information and 40% were requests for a prescription. Almost all discussions (93%) were initiated by the patient or carer. The average age of the patients was 51 years.

The most common reasons for intended use of medicinal cannabis were pain (64%), nausea (48%) and appetite (35%).

About a quarter of the consultations (27%) resulted in a prescription for medicinal cannabis. But 29% of patients said they were already sourcing their own supply of cannabis, mostly cannabis oil/product (60%), with only 17% using cannabis dried leaf/bud product.

Community awareness of medicinal cannabis and confidence in its efficacy may be higher  than the scientific literature supporting its use.

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