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Medical cannabis for refractory cancer-related pain in a specialised clinical service: a cross-sectional study


Background and objectives Cancer-related pain management in advanced stages presents a significant challenge that often requires a multidisciplinary approach. Although advancements in pharmacological and interventional therapies, a considerable number of patients still suffer from refractory pain, leading to unmet clinical needs. This study shares our experience with medical cannabis (MC) as a potential therapy for this specific population of patients with cancer-related refractory pain.

Methods In a cross-sectional study, 252 consecutive refractory cancer-related pain patients (mean age=61.71, SD=14.02, 47.6% males) filled out detailed self-report questionnaires. Of these, 126 patients (55%) were treated with MC and 105 patients (45%) were not.

Results Most patients received pain management from their oncologist, not a pain specialist. MC was mainly started for pain relief, sleep difficulties and anorexia. About 70% of patients reported subjective improvement from MC, with almost 40% reporting a significant improvement in coping with their illness. Side effects were generally mild, with fatigue and dizziness being the most common (21.78% and 23.46%, respectively). No patient required dedicated medical care for side effects. Of non-users, 65% had tried MC before and stopped due to lack of effectiveness or side effects (39.7% and 34.6%, respectively).

Conclusion Refractory cancer pain necessitates innovative approaches. This registry highlights that MC can effectively improve symptoms in non-responsive patients, with favourable safety profiles for this vulnerable population.

  • pain
  • symptoms and symptom management

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. All data collected are available on request.

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