- Firstly, and unfortunately, the debate over the use of marijuana is often hijacked by “conspiracy theorists”. Those who think that big pharma has the cure for cancer and is just not telling us, and that we just get a kick out of poisoning people with cancer drugs because it keeps us in business. These people will frequently make claims that marijuana cures cancer. It is at this stage I like to point out that cancer is not one disease, it is hundreds of different diseases, with a couple of hundred different treatment options, and we DO, in fact, cure a number of cancers already. Just ask ex-Australian cricketer, Simon O’Donnell, musician, Delta Goodrem and even the disgraced cyclist, Lance Armstrong.
- Secondly, well-meaning patients (and patient advocates) will stand up and say how effective marijuana has been at treating their condition, without acknowledging the fact that they have also used or are currently still on conventional medication. This does not mean the marijuana they are using is not having a therapeutic effect, but it does make health professionals sceptical of such claims.
- Thirdly, health professionals just don’t know how to use it properly, YET. Health professionals are science nerds. When giving a medication, they want to understand what diseases or symptoms it is useful in treating, what the medication does and what the effective dose is. Much of this information is unclear at present.
- Fourthly, and particularly in the absence of above, health professionals take comfort in discussing unfamiliar issues with a colleague who has experience in the area. This is not specific to marijuana, they do it for most things – uncommon conditions, new medications, or a new kind of diagnostic test. A chat with a colleague is one of the most common forms of informal learning. Unfortunately, there are very few health professionals with experience in the use of marijuana to chat to.
- Lastly, and rather disappointingly I think, some of the people providing educational offerings on the use of marijuana do not focus on points three and four, instead they discuss how safe it is compared to say alcohol, or they use terms in their presentations like “flying high”. It is not helpful to refer to, or play up, recreational substance use – be that marijuana, alcohol or even nicotine in the argument for using marijuana for medical conditions. Being less harmful, does not make it effective.
Rarely does a study comes out and say that chemotherapy is not needed; that it does not reduce the likelihood of the cancer coming back and does not increase survival.
But that is exactly what has happened in a large trial on breast cancer patients with hormone-receptor–positive, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)–negative, axillary node–negative breast cancer, who would have until now, been given what is known as adjuvant chemotherapy.
Adjuvant chemotherapy is chemotherapy which is given after a potentially curative procedure (in the case of breast cancer this is surgery) to mop up any remaining cancer cells in the body that we can’t see. It’s a tricky business. We’ve …