Background: In Italy medical cannabis is a prescription drug since 1998. Even though it could not be considered a therapy as such, it is indicated as a symptomatic treatment also in cancer patients, to cure iatrogenic nausea/vomiting and chronic pain.
Patients and methods: We conducted a knowledge survey about medical cannabis among cancer patients referred to two outpatient cancer care centers and a home care service.
Results: From February to April 2018, 232 patient were enrolled; 210 patients were on active disease-oriented treatment (90.5%), while 22 (9.5%) not. Eighty-one percent of the patients have heard about medical cannabis, but only 2% from healthcare professionals. Thirty-four percent of responders thought about using cannabis to treat one or more of their own health problems, especially pain (55%). Despite that, 18% of the participants believe that medical cannabis could have negative effects on their own symptoms. Patients with high educational level better knew cannabis (odds ratio = 3.52; 95% confidence interval: 1.07-11.53), and medical cannabis (odds ratio = 3.21; 95% confidence interval: 1.48-6.98), when compared to patient with low educational level. Patients who were on active disease-oriented treatment better knew medical cannabis (odds ratio = 3.91; 95% confidence interval: 1.26-12.11) compared to “out of treatment” patients. Metastatic patients were less informed about medical cannabis compared to patients on adjuvant treatment.
Conclusions: Our survey shows that most of Italian cancer patients know medical cannabis and a third of them have considered using cannabis to treat one (or more) of their own health problems. In the same time, they are poorly informed and do not tend to ask for information about medical cannabis to healthcare professionals.