Breastcancer.org, a leading digital source of expert information and an online community for people impacted by breast cancer, announced findings from a recent survey study that showed more than 40% of breast cancer patients have used medical cannabis to manage their symptoms related to breast cancer or its treatments. The results will be shared in a poster presentation at ASCO’s virtual conference at the end of the month.
“While solid evidence on the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis to treat cancer-related symptoms remains scarce, many patients report they find cannabis effective for symptom palliation,” says lead study author Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., founder and chief medical officer of Breastcancer.org. “We conducted this study, in part, to explore which symptoms breast cancer patients seek to control with cannabis and at what point during their treatment.”
The research team invited members of the Breastcancer.org and Healthline online communities to participate in a survey between December 16, 2019, and January 19, 2020. Participants were required to be age 18 or older, live in the United States and diagnosed with breast cancer within the past five years. Respondents’ ages ranged from 27 – 84 with a median age of 57; 15% of respondents had metastatic disease.
Of the 612 completed surveys, 42% of respondents reported they have used medical cannabis to treat breast cancer symptoms or treatment side effects.
Key findings from the study:
4 in 10 breast cancer patients say they have used cannabis to manage cancer-related symptoms.
The majority of medical cannabis users reported cannabis was effective for managing their symptoms.
Cannabis is used by breast cancer patients across a range of ages.
Most cannabis users (79%) reported using cannabis during active treatment of all forms, including chemotherapy, targeted therapy, hormonal therapy and radiation.
Respondents often reported using medical cannabis to manage more than one symptom or side effect, the most common of which included pain (78%), insomnia (70%) and anxiety (57%).
Patient reported data provide important insights to better understand patient interest, knowledge, patterns of use, perceptions and barriers to care. Yet, more rigorous randomized controlled trial data are needed to establish the safety and efficacy of medical cannabis for cancer symptom palliation. Legal constraints in the U.S., however, hinder these studies as medical marijuana laws vary state by state and use remains illegal at the federal level.
The results from this survey study will inform Breastcancer.org’s development of educational resources to empower patients in the community and everywhere to have informed conversations with their physicians about cannabis use. The Breastcancer.org online community consists of hundreds of thousands of active members whose collective experiences and opinions are an important resource to evaluate the needs of breast cancer patients and caregivers worldwide.
The medical cannabis study was led by Socanna, which is Dr. Weiss’s clinical research laboratory to advance the science of medical cannabis. The study was conducted by Outcomes Insights. This research was made possible by a generous grant from Ananda Health/Ecofibre. Read the abstract on the ASCO website.
Breastcancer.org plans to submit additional insights from this survey study to medical journals and upcoming scientific conferences.
Breastcancer.org is the leading patient-focused resource for breast health and breast cancer education and support. Their mission is to engage and empower people with research, expert information and a dynamic peer support community to help them make the best decisions for their lives. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2000 by breast oncologist Marisa C. Weiss, M.D. and born out of her conviction that people with breast cancer need more information and support than a physician visit can provide. Since its start, Breastcancer.org has reached 153 million people worldwide. Visit www.Breastcancer.org for more information.
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