As we continue to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October to help build awareness of the disease, today we highlight the findings of a new study on the potential benefits of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids, including cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), have shown promise for helping cancer patients alleviate the nausea, pain, and other symptoms related to cancer treatments.
The new study, published in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal CANCER, found that one-quarter of patients that are diagnosed with cancer incorporate medical cannabinoids into their treatment regimens when they can access them legally.
Dr. Steven Pergam of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and his colleagues surveyed 926 patients at the Seattle Cancer Center Alliance, inquiring about their patterns of medical cannabinoid use. In the state of Washington, patients are allowed to purchase and use medical cannabis products, provided they have a recommendation from a licensed physician.
Pergam and his team found that at least 25 percent of all cancer patients in Washington are actively participating in their state-regulated medical cannabinoid program. Sixty-six percent of the patients said they had used cannabinoids sometime in the past, 24 percent said they had used them in the past year, and 21 percent said they had used them in the past month.
“These levels are more than double those reported in national prevalence studies, where rates vary between 1.8% and 8.3% over 1 month and between 2.8% and 12.9% over 1 year,” the study concluded.
Most of the patients who said to be actively using cannabinoids told the researchers they did so to reduce physician symptoms like pain and nausea, and for psychological purposes like coping with stress, insomnia, and depression. Patients reportedly preferred to consume the medical cannabinoids through inhalation methods (70 percent), edibles (70 percent), or a combination of both types of modalities (40 percent).
The study also revealed that cancer patients are having a difficult time obtaining information about medical cannabinoids through the traditional medical care system. Nearly three out of four of the patients said to have a “strong interest” in obtaining information about medical cannabinoids from cancer care providers. Most, however, said they were more likely to get that information from sources other than a healthcare professional.
“Cancer patients desire but are not receiving information from their cancer doctors about [medical cannabinoid] use during their treatment, so many of them are seeking information from alternative non-scientific sources,” said Dr. Pergam, in a statement.
“We hope that this study helps to open up the door for more studies aimed at evaluating the risks and benefits of [medical cannabinoids] in this population,” he added. This is important, because if we do not educate our patients about [cannabinoids], they will continue to get their information elsewhere.”
The study also found that legalization increased the likelihood for use among more than half of the patients.
Twenty-nine U.S. states have passed laws legalizing and regulating the use of medical cannabinoids. Products derived from imported hemp, rather than marijuana, are not regulated by the federal Controlled Substances Act. This means that CBD hemp oil products are available legally in most major markets without a prescription.
The study by Dr. Pergam and his colleagues was recently published in the journal CANCER and is available to access now through Wiley Online Library.
We at ECHO understand that it can be difficult to find trustworthy information on cannabinoids and how they may help you and your family. You can learn more about what research has so far discovered about the benefits of cannabinoids like CBD for those diagnosed with cancer by visiting our education page.
We also invite you to join our free ECHO Community to connect with physicians and others who have used or are using cannabinoids for health purposes.