For any patient facing a serious diagnosis and considering medical marijuana treatment, the prospect of raising the subject with one’s doctor can be intimidating. In a traditional medical setting, opinions on alternative therapies can vary and patients may understandably feel apprehensive about how to start the conversation and what reaction to expect. Interestingly, a new study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute sheds much-needed light on how such interactions are experienced from the doctor’s perspective:
While a wide majority of oncologists do not feel informed enough about medical marijuana’s utility to make clinical recommendations, most do in fact conduct discussions on medical marijuana in the clinic and nearly half recommend it to their patients, say researchers who surveyed a population-based sample of medical oncologists.
The study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the first nationally-representative survey of medical oncologists to examine attitudes, knowledge and practices regarding the agent since medical marijuana became legal on the state level in the U.S. [Science Daily]
It’s a subject that interests us greatly, and the survey results provide a revealing window into both the caution and optimism with which physicians often approach medical marijuana use in the context of cancer treatment. Among the study’s most notable findings is that 70% of oncologists did not feel adequately prepared to educate their patients about medical marijuana treatment. This reflects the need for more extensive research into medical marijuana’s role in cancer treatment, but it also illustrates the lack of formal education most physicians receive with regards to existing knowledge on the subject. Although we look forward to further advancements in the science of cannabis, promising research does exist and may need to be made more available to practitioners. Similarly, physicians may find it helpful to possess a working knowledge of how and why this treatment is used in order to address practical questions many patients may have.
Encouragingly, however, the research also demonstrates support for medical marijuana treatment among many oncologists. With nearly half of respondents reporting that they’d recommended medical marijuana use to patients, it’s clear that they see promise in this treatment option and frequently view the benefits as outweighing the risks. Traditional interventions such as chemotherapy can carry harsh side-effects, and it’s understandable that practitioners would see potential in cannabis as a complementary treatment.
In our own experience working with cancer patients, its benefits for many appeared tangible and, at times, deeply moving. Our patients have shared their experiences regaining weight and strength, relieving pain enough to permit activities and visits with family, overcoming depression and improving their outlook, and many other ways in which cannabis treatment played an important role in empowering them to fight the disease. Their stories inspire us to do the work we do and we have no doubt that others involved in their care are seeing these benefits as well.
In the years to come, we hope that medical science will continue to answer critical questions and usher in the next generation of cannabis medicine. Today, the challenge we face is that of making sure those who suffer have access to the safest and most beneficial treatment options we can provide. We’re grateful to the hard-working professionals in the oncology field for their dedication and their willingness to recommend medical marijuana to patients in need. We’ll continue working closely with practitioners to provide the best information possible, the best care possible, and ultimately the best lives possible for those we serve.