Cancer patients find relief in cannabis, challenging therapists

cannabis and cancer

Researchers and patients have had an interest in medical cannabis for cancer for years. Patients have consumed the plant to offset vomiting, nausea, body pain, and other side effects of chemotherapy.

Research into cannabis as a cure for cancer, like this study from Harvard, has piqued patient interest in 420 options. This research is backed by a recent study from Canada. However, a separate survey revealed that radiology therapists aren’t fully prepared.

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The most recent scientific hypothesis on how cannabis may improve the quality of life for cancer patients dove into their sleep. Medications, treatment, long hospital stays, and stress are some of the reasons cancer patients run into sleep troubles.

The restorative sleep theory believes that the body repairs and repletes the cells while asleep–regenerating what has been used throughout the day. If there’s truth to that, people fighting diseases like cancer could use a good night’s rest.

Cancer patients and cannabis for sleep

Cannabis has been used for sleep by many patients and adult-use consumers. Cancer patients are among them. A cross-sectional survey published in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship learned how almost 1,500 cancer survivors consume the plant for sleep.

Respondents were recruited to fill out an online survey about cannabis and sleep. The cancer survivors were split equally, with about 50 percent being women. Most received their cancer diagnosis an average of 12 years before answering the survey.

Two-thirds of those who responded started consuming cannabis for sleep after their cancer diagnosis–23.5 percent still use the plant as a sleep aid. The participants shared that weed helped them relax before bed, fall asleep faster, wake up less, and have an overall better quality of nightly rest. Pain relief, recreational use, and managing anxiety were also listed as reasons cancer survivors still go green.

The study concludes that these results warrant more investigation into cannabis as a sleep aid, especially for people battling cancer.

“It is important that cancer survivors have information on methods to help their sleep to avoid impairments to quality of life and health,” the authors wrote.

Unfortunately, another study highlighted a possible road block.

Radiology therapists need (and want) more medical cannabis knowledge

A survey study revealed that a key member of the oncology treatment team feel ill-prepared to care for cannabis patients. The goal was to gauge the opinions and experiences of Canadian radiation therapists on caring for patients using cannabis for their cancer. The survey was distributed to all radiation therapists in the country. It was open for one month, and two reminders were sent before the survey closed.

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About a quarter of radiation therapists responded. Of these therapists, 19 percent reported being asked about cannabis treatment options in a one-month period. Only 4.4 percent initiated a conversation about pot as an option.

This is attributed to a lack of training on the matter. 99.9 percent of respondents said they do not believe radiation therapy training prepared them to support cannabis patients. Almost all answering therapists acknowledged their lack of education on the topic and showed interest in learning more.

On one hand, Canadian cancer survivors believe that the plant helped them sleep–many still consume it today. On the other, radiation therapists, a crucial part of an oncology team, don’t feel trained to provide care for patients who choose cannabis. This gap needs a bridge, and both studies offer building blocks to society understanding the powers of the plant.

Cara Wietstock is Senior Content Producer of and has been working in the cannabis space since 2011. She has covered the cannabis business beat for Ganjapreneur and The Spokesman Review. You can find her living in Bellingham, Washington with her husband, son, and a small zoo of pets.