Oncologists May Not Be Adequately Informed About Medical Marijuana

Marijuana plants a few weeks away from harvest

But majority of oncologists don't feel knowledgeable enough to make these recommendations.

Overall, almost eight in 10 cancer doctors reported having discussed marijuana with patients or their families, with 46 percent recommending it for pain and other cancer-related problems to at least one patient in the past year. Nearly 80% of the conversations were initiated by patients, as reported online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO). "These findings are clinically important and suggest critical gaps in research, medical education, and policy regarding medical marijuana". "Whatever they want to do to make themselves comfortable", said Pergam, who wasn't involved in the new research.

"The big takeaway is we need more research, plain and simple", said Dr. Ilana Braun of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, who led the study published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

But the report found no evidence one way or the other regarding medical marijuana's ability to treat the lack of appetite and wasting caused by cancer.

"A state might have made it legal for medical marijuana to be dispensed, but an individual might not have the process in place to dispense it". Oncologists in states that have actually not legislated medical cannabis need education about the healing alternatives that might be offered, he added. The authors noted that the state laws encompass a complex topic, including terminology, biology, and formulations. On the other hand, "healing cannabis" describes nonpharmaceutical cannabis products utilized with "medicinal intent", no matter compliance with the law.

Medical marijuana comes in a variety of strains and potencies, the authors continued.

No randomized trials have evaluated medical marijuana for oncology indications. However, cannabis has numerous active components that have both synergistic and repressive "entourage results", the authors kept in mind, making comparisons between whole-plant medical cannabis and pharmaceutical cannabinoids that contain a couple of components.

According to the European study, after 6 months of medical marijuana usage, over 93% of the subjects reported that their pain had decreased.

Previous surveys of oncologist attitudes about medical marijuana addressed only use as an antiemetic and were conducted prior to passage of current laws. Jerry Mitchell, a medical oncologist at the Zangmeister Cancer Center in OH, said getting asked about marijuana is not surprising given the popularity of its byproducts.

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

"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. Oncologists who had a high practice volume ( 60 clients weekly ) and who practiced outside a health center were also more likely to report conversations about medical cannabis, and practicing outside a medical facility increased the possibility of recommending medical marijuana.

Beliefs on potential benefit: More than two-thirds (67 percent) believed medical marijuana to be a helpful treatment for alleviating pain, when used together with standard therapies, and a majority viewed it as presenting a lower risk than opioids for overdose death (75 percent) and addiction (52 percent). When evaluating its effectiveness for other conditions, however, many oncologists responded, "I do not know", from 29 percent for nausea and vomiting to 45 percent for poor sleep. One or more co-authors disclosed relationships with UpToDate and Wolters Kluwer, and compensation for expert testimony.

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