Many Doctors Are Recommending Cannabis for Cancer Despite Inconclusive Research


There is now a lack of high-quality evidence that supports the use of medical cannabis for cancer-related illnesses which could be why so many oncologists feel ill-equipped to discuss or recommend products to their patients. Braun and coworkers looked for to acquire contemporary information about oncologists' views and knowledge about medical use of medical cannabis.

The authors reported geographical variation in the reactions: Oncologists in the South were least likely (69%) to report talking about medical marijuana with patients or families or advising it (34.7%), and those practicing in the West were more than likely (95%, 84%; P=0.02, P 0.001).

"While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease", their website stated, cautioning that marijuana should not be relied upon as a replacement for conventional medical treatment. Regardless of this lack of understanding, around 80% of the doctors reported that they discussed cannabis treatments with their patients, and 46% still recommended these treatments. Fewer oncologists feel prepared to recommend cannabis to cancer patients in states where marijuana is still illegal.

Marijuana isn't harmless. The National Academies report said pot smoking may be linked to higher chances of traffic accidents, chronic bronchitis from long-term use and schizophrenia and other causes of psychosis, especially in the most frequent users. Non-pharmaceutical medical marijuana, however, is often whole plant, containing hundreds of active ingredients, and thus can not easily be compared to pharmaceutical cannabinoids. The products might be "smoked, vaporized, ingested, taken sublingually, or applied topically". As a result, oncologists must theorize from research study on pharmaceutical cannabinoids or from evidence including patients with other illness and conditions.

The report found conclusive evidence that oral medications containing THC, the intoxicating chemical in pot, can reduce the impact of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Over the past two decades, the medical community has gradually come around to accepting that cannabis has a wide number of medical benefits. Observational research studies showed that medical marijuana legalization is connected with reductions in opioid-related hospitalizations, however no randomized trials have actually compared the two methods for pain relief.

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Previous surveys of oncologist attitudes about medical marijuana addressed only use as an antiemetic and were conducted prior to passage of current laws.

"Unfortunately, at this time, the evidence base to support medical marijuana's efficacy in oncology is young", Braun said to NPR.

A newly published survey made a decision to find out by asking 237 oncologists from across the country.

Of the 400 oncologists in the sample, 376 responded to the survey (overall response rate of 63%). Almost two-thirds (67%) of oncologists reported viewing medical marijuana as an effective adjunct to standard pain management strategies, and 65% thought that medical marijuana was just as or more effective than therapies aimed to improve cachexia and anorexia.

The proportion of oncologists who reacted "I do not know" concerning medical cannabis's effectiveness varied by indicator, from 27.6% for poor appetite/cachexia to 45.1% for bad sleep.

Braun reported having no relevant relationships with industry.