Cancer patients using cannabis report better influence from the plant extract than from synthetic products. However, almost all the research conducted to date has been performed with synthetic products. We followed patients with a medicinal cannabis license to evaluate the advantages and side effects of using cannabis by cancer patients.
The study included two interviews based on questionnaires regarding symptoms and side effects, the first held on the day the license was issued and the second 6-8 weeks later. Cancer symptoms and cannabis side effects were documented on scales from 0 to 4 following the CTCAE. The distress thermometer was used also.
Of the 211 patients who had a first interview, only 131 had the second interview, 25 of whom stopped treatment after less than a week. All cancer or anticancer treatment-related symptoms showed significant improvement (P < 0.001). No significant side effects except for memory lessening in patients with prolonged cannabis use (P = 0.002) were noted.
The positive effects of cannabis on various cancer-related symptoms are tempered by reliance on self-reporting for many of the variables. Although studies with a control group are missing, the improvement in symptoms should push the use of cannabis in palliative treatment of oncology patients.