Using cannabis to relieve symptoms in women with breast cancer was reported by 42% of respondents in a US survey conducted by an online health group.

An anonymous survey of cannabis (CB) use found that 42% of women with breast cancer used it for symptom relief, according to a study by online support group Breastcancer.org, Pennsylvania, USA. The use of medical CB in cancer patients is not new and has previously been reported by nearly a quarter of respondents with a range of different cancers and primarily for pain relief. In addition, other work has found that 1 in 5 patients with cancer admitted taking CB during chemotherapy. Although federal law makes it illegal to possess cannabis in the U.S. except in approved research environments, 36 states and four territories allow the medicinal use of cannabis products as of May 2021, and in many cases it may be for cancer.

For the present study, researchers developed their survey and posted it online, and members of Breastcancer.org were invited to participate through messaging boards, social media, and email newsletters. The survey collected demographics as well as breast cancer variables such as type, stage and treatment status along with information about their cannabis use such as time of use in relation to therapy, e.g. B. before, during or after treatment, products used, sources and perceptions of the safety of cannabis.

Results

A total of 612 completed surveys of women with an average age of 57 years were available for analysis. A total of 64% of respondents said they were very or very interested in the medicinal uses of cannabis, the most common sources of information being websites (67%) and family and friends (56%). However, only 39% had spoken to their doctor about using CB.

Overall, 42% (257/612) said they had used cannabis, although only 23% (58) said it was specifically for medicinal purposes, while the rest of them used it for both medicinal and recreational purposes. Of the 257 respondents who used cannabis, 79% had used it alongside conventional treatment and 54% said they would use it after completing therapy. The most common reasons for cannabis use were pain relief (78%), insomnia (70%), anxiety (57%), stress (50%), and nausea / vomiting (46%). Additionally, 75% of CB users believed it was extremely or very helpful in relieving their symptoms. More worryingly, 57% of cannabis users said it was because they couldn’t find another way to treat their symptoms, and 49% said they were using CB because they believed it could treat their cancer.

Interestingly, 78% of respondents were more or less in agreement that cannabis should be viewed similarly to other herbal medicines, with 71% of respondents saying that the benefits of cannabis outweigh the risks.

The researchers commented on their results, noting that the use of CB during therapy was a concern given the limited data available on interactions. Additionally, they suggested that medical providers should discuss the risks and benefits of using CB in cancer patients.

Quote

Weiss MC et al. A Coala-T cannabis survey study of cannabis use by breast cancer patients before, during, and after treatment. Cancer 2021