Surprising fact: The majority of pediatric cancer doctors support medical cannabis. But, how much do providers really know about the herb?
We often think that the mainstream medical community is at odds with medical cannabis. This is not the case with pediatric oncologists. According to a cross-sectional survey presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, more than 90% of doctors favored medical cannabis for pediatric cancer patients. The meeting was held in Chicago and concluded on June seventh.
The survey had 301 respondents in all. The pool included nurses, physicians, and physician extenders. A whopping 92% of those polled were in favor of pediatric cannabis for cancer. 88% of participants approved of cannabis use in patients near the end of their lives.
However, a dismal 34% suggested that cannabis is helpful for early-stage treatment. Future substance abuse was not a concern for 62% of those surveyed.
These survey results are very promising. The idea of giving cannabis to a sick child was once a cause of public outrage. Now, with the majority of providers in support for pediatric medical cannabis use, things are looking up.
In an interview with HemOnc Today, Dr. PrasannaJanaki Ananth, MD, MPH, pediatric oncologist at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, explains:
Providers see a role for medical marijuana in managing symptoms in children with cancer and are willing to help patients access it. The laws are also changing rapidly, increasing access for patients. Yet, we do not have rigorous scientific evidence to help support medical marijuana use in children. – Ananth
While the majority of providers approve medical cannabis for pediatric cancer, many of them don’t seem to know a whole lot about the herb. Only 58% of providers knew about specific cannabis regulations in their state. When receiving requests for medical cannabis from patients, fewer than half of providers explained that dosing, potency, and consumption methods are highly variable in the cannabis sphere.
These findings show a significant gap when it comes to educating medical professionals about the proper use of medical cannabis. Unfortunately, this ignorance and confusion are then passed off onto patients. Ananth had a couple of thoughts on the matter:
Awareness of state and federal regulations can be improved, and clinical trials are needed to better understand the benefits and side effects of medical marijuana in children with cancer. – Ananth
As this survey suggests, many medical providers know that cannabis can help young cancer patients. Now, we face a couple of insurmountable tasks. Obviously, the legal status of the plant needs to change. Legalization or re-scheduling cannabis will open the gates to much-needed cannabis research. As Ananth admits,
Another next step is to design an early phase clinical trial that investigates particular formulations of medical marijuana in pediatric cancer patients. – Ananath
The other major challenge is making sure doctors and the health care community is well-versed on state requirements, as well as on basic properties of the plant itself. One thing that this survey did not address was the percentage of doctors who knew whether to recommend THC, non-psychoactive CBD, or even raw forms of cannabis.
Depending on the case, individual patients may have drastically different responses to varying types of medical cannabis. It’s time medical providers were as educated about cannabis as those who regularly consume the herb.
Has your doctor been able to tell you about medical cannabis? Share your story with us on social media or in the comment section below. We’d love to hear from you!