Most Oncologists Have Discussed Medical Marijuana With Patients

Most Oncologists Have Discussed Medical Marijuana With Patients

Jerry Mitchell, a medical oncologist at the Zangmeister Cancer Center in OH, said getting asked about marijuana is not surprising given the popularity of its byproducts.

The authors reported that there is a discrepancy between the doctors' knowledge of medical marijuana and their practices.

To assess how cancer doctors are grappling with this issue, Braun and her colleagues surveyed a nationally representative random sample of 400 oncologists. The survey consisted of 30 questions that attempted to shed light onto oncologists' views and practices with medical marijuana, including whether or not they discussed it's use with their patients, recommended it, and how informed they felt in making recommendations concerning medical marijuana.

Results of a survey published May 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that 80 percent of medical oncologists have discussed using medical marijuana with cancer patients, and 46 percent said they recommended it clinically.

Education: Less than 30 percent felt knowledgeable enough about medical marijuana to make recommendations.

This is the first U.S. national survey on the subject since the use of medical cannabis was authorized in the United States.

However, pot remains an illegal substance under federal law, restricting research opportunities into its effectiveness as a medical treatment. More research needs to be done so that doctors can recommend products with the proper knowledge. A patient with leukemia, however, should be warned of a theoretical possibility of a fungal infection tied to cannabis use. A better understanding of the logistics surrounding medical marijuana likewise is required.


Medical marijuana comes in a variety of strains and potencies, the authors continued.

Oral synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol received FDA approval for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Last year, the National Cancer Institute reported that several recent studies had found that cannabinoids had effectively killed cancer cells while protecting normal cells.

There's substantial evidence that pot is an effective treatment for chronic pain in adults, but it's not known if marijuana can help fight cancer pain in particular.

Of note, additional findings of the current study suggest that almost two-thirds of oncologists believe medical marijuana to be an effective adjunct to standard pain treatment, and equally or more effective than the standard therapies for symptoms like nausea or lack of appetite, common side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy. Respondents were also asked about their views on the effectiveness of medical marijuana for cancer-related symptoms such as pain, nausea and vomiting, depression, anxiety, poor appetite, poor sleep and general coping, as well as its risks compared to other treatments.

Physician discussions: 80 percent reported discussing medical marijuana with patients, and 78 percent reported that these conversations were most frequently initiated by patients and their families. Yet, many doctors are not trained or educated on the drug and can not offer quality advice to their patients about it.

The study raises questions about the present evidence base for medical marijuana and mentions a need for more research to examine the benefit-burden ratio for medical marijuana as compared to other treatments for cancer and cancer-related adverse effects, included Epstein, who is a clinical expert for the American Society of Medical Oncology.

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