USA cancer docs feel unprepared, but recommend marijuana anyway

USA cancer docs feel unprepared, but recommend marijuana anyway

"Medical marijuana is legal in over half the states, with cancer as a qualifying condition in the vast majority of laws, yet the scientific evidence base supporting use of medical marijuana in oncology remains thin". Nearly 80% of the conversations were initiated by patients, as reported online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO). A better understanding of the logistics surrounding medical marijuana also is needed.

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

Many studies have explored the use of pharmaceutical cannabinoids, which are highly refined, quality-controlled products consisting of one or two active ingredients and available through a pharmacy. The guidelines note insufficient evidence to recommend medical marijuana for initial management of chronic pain in cancer survivors, although evidence suggests it is worthy of consideration as an adjuvant analgesic and for managing pain conditions that are hard to treat. Evidence also remains insufficient to recommend medical marijuana for the prevention of nausea and vomiting in patients with cancer who receive chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

The study was conducted in 2016 where the researchers randomly sampled 400 medical oncologists from across the country.

" [The findings] highlight an important need for expedited scientific trials checking out cannabis's prospective medical results in oncology ... and the need for education programs about medical cannabis to notify oncologists who often confront questions relating to medical cannabis in practice", the authors concluded.

Cancer professionals often discussed medical cannabis with clients and nearly half suggested marijuana for treatment, even though less than a third of the clinicians felt sufficiently informed, a national survey revealed.

According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that medical marijuana use can be helpful in managing side effects of cancer such as pain due to nerve damage as well as nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.

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Overall, 80% the 237 oncologists surveyed said they had discussed medical marijuana with patients, and 46% reported they had recommended medical marijuana for management of cancer-related issues.

Cancer doctors appropriately consider medical marijuana as an adjunct therapy to be used alongside other established treatments, Epstein said.

Among those who said they recommended marijuana, 56 percent said they did not have sufficient knowledge to do so. Almost two-thirds (65 percent) also viewed it as equally or more effective than standard treatments for poor appetite and extreme weight loss.

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.

Geographic location: Oncologists practicing in the Western United States were more likely to have discussed (95 percent) or recommended (84 percent) medical marijuana, and oncologists practicing in the South were least likely (69 percent and 35 percent, respectively).

The responses were very positive in favor or medical marijuana, but revealed a strong indication that oncologists are not confident in their knowledge on medical marijuana as a treatment for cancer-related illnesses. Oncologists who had a high practice volume ( 60 patients weekly) and who practiced outside a hospital were also more likely to report discussions about medical marijuana, and practicing outside a hospital increased the likelihood of recommending medical marijuana.

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