Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care

Cannabis species have been used as medicine for thousands of years; only since the 1940s has the plant not been widely available for medical use. However, an increasing number of jurisdictions are making it possible for patients to obtain the botanical for medicinal use. For the cancer patient, cannabis has a number of potential benefits, especially in the management of symptoms. Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression.

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Should Oncologists Recommend Cannabis?

Cannabis is a useful botanical with a wide range of therapeutic potential. Global prohibition over the past century has impeded the ability to study the plant as medicine. However, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been developed as a stand-alone pharmaceutical initially approved for the treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in 1986. The indication was expanded in 1992 to include treatment of anorexia in patients with the AIDS wasting syndrome. Hence, if the dominant cannabinoid is available as a schedule III prescription medication, it would seem logical that the parent botanical would likely have similar therapeutic benefits.

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Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care

Cannabis species have been used as medicine for thousands of years; only since the 1940s has the plant not been widely available for medical use. However, an increasing number of jurisdictions are making it possible for patients to obtain the botanical for medicinal use. For the cancer patient, cannabis has a number of potential benefits, especially in the management of symptoms. Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression. Despite an absence of clinical trials, abundant anecdotal reports that describe patients having remarkable responses to cannabis as an anticancer agent, especially when taken as a high-potency orally ingested concentrate, are circulating.

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Preferences for Medical Marijuana over Prescription Medications Among Persons Living with Chronic Conditions: Alternative, Complementary, and Tapering Uses

Despite expanded legalization and utilization of medical cannabis (MC) internationally, there is a lack of patient-centered data on how MC is used by persons living with chronic conditions in tandem with or instead of prescription medications. MC appears to serve as both a complementary method for symptom management and treatment of medication side-effects associated with certain chronic conditions, and as an alternative method for treatment of pain, seizures, and inflammation in this population. Additional patient-centered research is needed to identify specific dosing patterns of MC products associated with symptom alleviation and produce longitudinal data assessing chronic disease outcomes with MC use.

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Cannabis use in cancer: a survey of the current state at BC Cancer before recreational legalization in Canada

Cancer patients experience multiple symptoms throughout their illness, and some report benefit from the use of cannabis. There are concerns that many patients are accessing products inappropriate for their situation and potentially putting themselves at risk. Many more patients would consider use with appropriate guidance from a health care professional. More research is needed to inform physicians and patients about safe uses and doses and about the potential adverse effects of cannabis use.

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