Cancer patients in Seattle encouraged by legalization to use pot

One in four patients used cannabis, according to a new study, but most didn’t get their information from doctors, raising concerns.

One in four Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients say they have used cannabis to relieve symptoms and most were encouraged to do so by legalization, according to a new study published in the journal of the American Cancer Society.

But the vast majority of patients surveyed in the study said they wanted information from their cancer physician or nurse about cannabis use, but did not get it from them. Instead they relied on friends, family members, newspaper and magazine articles, websites or other patients.

Given the considerable use, desire for more information and likelihood legalization will spread, the study’s lead author said more research is needed on the benefits and risks of cannabis use by cancer patients. And more patients should be talking to providers about cannabis, said Dr. Steven Pergam of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“I don’t want patients to hide this. I want open discussion because if we don’t know they’re using, we don’t know the best way to advise them,” Pergam said. “Ultimately what we want is a shared decision-making process.”

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Pergam said he is agnostic about cancer patients using cannabis, pending more data. But as an infectious-disease specialist, he is concerned about the risk of infection for patients with compromised immune systems.

Someone who had a bone-marrow transplant or is planning one, he said, would be at high risk for infection from fungal pneumonia, which could come from mold spores in cannabis.

Here’s how the study unfolded: In 2015 and 2016, 926 patients arriving at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance anonymously filled out surveys about cannabis.

Most of the patients (52 percent) were male, had a college degree (59 percent) and lived within 25 miles of Seattle (52 percent). Their median age was 58.

Nearly a quarter (24 percent) considered themselves active users, with most consuming cannabis daily. Smoked plant matter and edibles were the main forms of ingestion.

Pain, nausea and stress were the most commonly cited reasons for consuming.

Research on cannabis therapy is limited, the study said. THC, the chief psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, may help relieve pain and spasticity, according to research, but data evaluating other therapeutic benefits are…

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