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Marijuana use improved at least one cancer-related symptom in more than 70 percent of study participants.

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Angela Stelmakowich Patients Patients “frequently experience nausea, vomiting, pain, anorexia and fatigue in connection with cancer-directed therapy or with their cancer itself.” / Photo by metamorworks / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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A small US study that enrolled 45 gynecological cancer patients who had prescribed medical marijuana (MM) to treat symptoms found a self-reported 71 percent improvement in at least one symptom.

Investigators considered patients prescribed MM from May 2016 to February 2019 and reviewed the prescribed formulation, patterns of use, duration of use, symptom relief and side effects. Patients were given MM for less than a month to 25.4 months, notes the study, published June 24 in the Gynecologic Oncology Report.

Approximately 55 percent of patients were prescribed formulations with a THC: CBD ratio of 1: 1, inhaled and sublingual formulations were prescribed for more than 70 percent of women, and many patients were prescribed more than one formulation.

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These patients “generally experience nausea, vomiting, pain, anorexia, and fatigue associated with cancer-directed therapy or with their cancer itself, which can be treated with medical marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids,” the authors write.

Specifically, the study found that 56 percent of patients used MM for pain, 47 percent for nausea / vomiting, 33 percent for anorexia and 27 percent for insomnia.

With 89 percent of patients receiving chemotherapy and 56 percent receiving primary treatment, more than 70 percent reported an improvement in nausea / vomiting compared to 36 percent who used it for pain relief.

“In cancer patients with inadequately controlled pain due to opioids, the addition of THC: CBD-containing compounds and nabiximoles improves the pain values ​​compared to placebo in some, but not all studies,” the authors state. Cannabinoid side effects – which can include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, and nausea – also need to be considered, they add.

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But beyond symptom relief, the study found “minimal therapy-related side effects”.  / But beyond symptom relief, the study found “minimal therapy-related side effects”. / Photo by Getty Images

However, 71 percent of the 41 patients who were in the final study at follow-up reported that the use of MM had improved at least one of their symptoms.

In addition to symptom relief, the study found “minimal therapy-related side effects,” with only 15 percent of patients dropping MM due to side effects.

“These data can prove useful in advising gynecological cancer patients on the efficacy and side effects of MM,” the study authors write. Given the prevalence of MM use in cancer patients, they note that “better education from both patients and providers can help increase use for symptom management across the disease continuum”.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, “Using cannabis, cannabinoid-containing drugs, or both can help you relax and make you feel good. But studies on the effectiveness of cannabis have produced different results. “

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