“There’s a lot of reason to believe that it has benefits in people who might need help”
A new study is shedding light on why older women undergoing cancer treatments use cannabis.
While it was anticipated that nausea would come in high on the list, the study by oncologist and breast cancer specialist Marisa Weiss determined that pain, anxiety and insomnia were all bigger factors in the decision, Forbes reports.
“I wanted to know and be able to share with other people in the field — doctors and patients — what the symptoms are for which women are seeking medical cannabis, and if they align with the evidence showing its efficacy,” Weiss told Forbes. “Basically, is there a good match between why people are seeking cannabis and what it has to offer? And there is.”
The Philadelphia-based oncologist started infusing her pain management program with cannabis in 2018 shortly after Pennsylvania legalized the drug for medicinal use. Weiss, who presented her findings to the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, looked at women at her practice over a 10-month period. The median age of the women was 64; 22 of them had early stage disease and nine had metastatic cancer.
The study found that women with both stages of the disease were overwhelmingly turning to cannabis to treat pain: 73 per cent in the early stage group and 89 per cent in the metastatic group cited it as the top reason for using the drug. The groups also sought relief from anxiety at a rate of 45 per cent and 89 per cent, respectively, insomnia (50 and 33 per cent), nausea (4 and 33 per cent) and anorexia (0 and 33 per cent).
“We found that most of the patients who were seeking medical cannabis as part of the program did have pain,” Weiss told Forbes. “But the other symptoms that were most common were anxiety and insomnia. And in fact, most people have a combination of the two — which makes sense. So, there’s also a high level of evidence that medical cannabis helps with those symptoms as well.”
The study also found immense benefits in using legal product over the illicit market, due largely to the absence of pesticides or other harmful chemicals as well as the abundance of delivery methods that are particularly important for people who may not be able to consume the drug through combustion.
Weiss said she found that avoiding opioids, and the danger of addiction, led many of the patients to try cannabis, but mostly it was that it was undeniably effective at treating their symptoms.
“Most patients report this,” she told Forbes. “Sometimes people go to the “candy shop” — the dispensary — and they get too many things, and they’re not using them in a careful, methodical way, starting low and going slow. So, there’s a lot of trial and error, and a need for education.
“But there’s also a lot of reason to believe that it has benefits in people who might need help.”
Written by David Yasvinski