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A marijuana leaf.

5 considerations for marijuana use in cancer treatment

As marijuana becomes easier to obtain legally in New York state, more patients with cancer may turn to the drug to augment their treatment. Upstate radiation oncologist Karna Sura, MD — who has sometimes prescribed medical marijuana — goes over a few things to consider:

  • While it has a reputation for creating euphoric feelings, marijuana can quell nausea and vomiting and stimulate the appetite. It may also help alleviate neuropathic (nerve-related) pain.
  • Dispensaries have strict regulations, and their products are labeled with what percentage of cannabidiol, or CBD, and tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and other compounds they contain.
  • Marijuana does not have to be smoked. Dispensaries typically have a variety of options, including powders and lozenges or other types of edibles.
  • Purchases are cash only, and nothing is covered by health insurers, regardless of whether you have a prescription.
  • Patients may fear addiction, although Sura says that is usually not a problem. “I counsel them to say that we want to put you on this to get you better so that you can do your normal activities, but then we will try to take it away, over time, so that you won’t be addicted.”

Sura is optimistic that more research will be done so that doctors will know which dosages to recommend and which types of products work better for which symptoms.

(Click here to hear Sura explain this topic further on Upstate's "The Informed Patient" podcast.)

This article appears in the summer 2023 issue of Cancer Care magazine.