Patient Experiences With Medical Marijuana for Cancer Symptoms

Though its legality still differs from state to state, many patients with cancer use cannabis or medical marijuana to help alleviate symptoms from treatment or the disease itself. In fact, a 2021 survey found that 42% of patients with breast cancer used medical marijuana to address issues such as pain, insomnia, anxiety/stress and nausea/vomiting.

According to the American Cancer Society, studies have found that smoking marijuana can be helpful in treating nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite that often comes along with chemotherapy treatment, while other research showed that patients who take marijuana extracts tended to need less pain medicine.

However, it should be noted that there is currently no research that found that marijuana can treat the cancer itself, and its use for symptom management can come with potential risks, such as feelings of disorientation or increased anxiety and paranoid, the American Cancer Society mentioned.

To better understand the patient experience with these substances, we recently posted the following #CUREConnect question to our social media following: “Have you ever used cannabis or CBD to relieve cancer-related symptoms? Where did you go to learn more about these products?”

MORE: Common Questions on Medical Marijuana

Here is what patients, survivors and caregivers had to say.

“I used it for anxiety, pain relief and sleep when I was first diagnosed with (metastatic breast cancer) last year. I learned about CBD from my local dispensary. They helped choose dosage and type — 40:1 tincture. I no longer use it, but only because I don’t have the same side effects.” — Julie H.

“Every day for insomnia. It saved me. I am a stage 4 breast cancer survivor, diagnosed on my 33rdbirthday. This June is my 10-year cancerversary NED (no evidence of disease).” — Erin

“I used RSO (Rick Simpson oil) for stage 4 colon cancer. I am seven years NED.” — Keri M.

Of note, Rick Simpson oil is a concentrated cannabis product that is high in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in marijuana.

“(I use) CBD tablets or oil during the day for pain (I’m no longer in treatment, but I am recovering from a shattered tibia. I used CBD on infusion days to manage neuralgia and the extreme pain marizomib caused). RSO at night for pain, insomnia, anxiety and what ails me. I use a variety of strain-specific concentrates and edibles, depending on what issues I need to manage.” — Patrick K.

“Used it for pain and nausea. It worked better than then meds the doctors prescribed. Plus, it was in my control and only (used) when needed. Eight-year survivor here.” — Jen

“Absolutely as it helped immensely with appetite and queasiness. Also, it is wonderful for pain management.” — Carol L.

“(I’m a) big fan, as are my caretaker team. I did extensive research and decided to get a volcano vaporizer to combat the loss of appetite. I was diagnosed malnourished and everyone was deeply concerned about my weight loss. The volcano and lucky charms saved my skinny life. Love talking about this stuff and sharing what I learned.” — Rainez

“My daughter used high CBD, low THC oil to help with nausea and appetite during chemo, and it helped a lot. Food just didn’t appeal even when her stomach settled, so the appetite stimulation was critical to her staying nourished. She met with a specialist who mated product to need.” — Debbie Legault, a CURE® contributor

“Cannabis may have some benefits, but (people) must weigh all options with other factors.” — Diane

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