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Take a look at a selection of our recent media coverage:

Cannabis used for symptom relief in nearly half of women with breast cancer

25th October 2021

Cannabis use for the relief of symptoms in women with breast cancer was reported by 42% those in a US survey of an online health group.

An anonymous survey of cannabis (CB) use found that 42% of women with breast cancer were using it for the relief of symptoms, according research conducted by the online support group, Breastcancer.org, Pennsylvania, US. The use of medicinal CB among those with cancer is not new and has previously been reported by nearly a quarter of respondents with a range of different cancer and mostly for pain relief. In addition, other work has found that 1 in 5 patients of those with cancer admitted to taking CB during chemotherapy. Although in the US, federal law states that the possession of cannabis is illegal, except within approved research settings, as of May 2021, 36 states and four territories allow for the medical use of cannabis products and in many cases, this can be for cancer.

For the present study, the researchers developed their survey and posted it online and members of Breastcancer.org were invited to participate through messaging boards, social media and email newsletters. The survey collected demographic data as well as breast cancer variables e.g., type, stage and treatment status, together with information on their use of cannabis such as timing of use in relation to therapy, e.g., before, during or after treatment, products used, sources and perceptions of the safety of cannabis.

Findings

A total of 612 completed surveys were available for analysis from women with a mean age of 57 years. A total of 64% of respondents reported being very or extremely interested in the medicinal use of cannabis, with the most common source of information being websites (67%) and family and friends (56%). However, only 39% had discussed the use of CB with their physician.

Overall, 42% (257/612) reported having used cannabis although only 23% (58) mentioned that this was specifically for medical purposes, with the remainder using it both medically and for recreational purposes. Among the 257 respondents using cannabis, 79% had used it alongside conventional treatment and 54% reported using it after the completion of therapy. The most common reasons for taking cannabis were for the relief of pain (78%), insomnia (70%),  anxiety (57%), stress (50%) and nausea/vomiting (46%). Moreover, 75% of those using CB believed that it was extremely or very helpful, at relieving their symptoms. Of more concern, was that 57% of those using cannabis stated that this was because they found no other way of treating their symptoms and how 49% stated that they were using CB in the belief that it could treat their cancer.

Interestingly, 78% of respondents somewhat or strongly agreed, that cannabis should be viewed similarly to other plant-based medicines with 71% stating that the benefits of cannabis outweighed its risks.

Commenting on their findings, the researchers noted how the use of CB during therapy was a concern, given the limited data available on interactions. In addition, they suggested that medical providers should discuss the risks and benefits of using CB in those with cancer.

Citation

Weiss MC et al. A Coala-T-Cannabis Survey Study of Breast Cancer Patients’ Use of Cannabis Before, During, and After Treatment. Cancer 2021

Long COVID symptoms exceed 35 weeks in the majority of cases

3rd August 2021

An online survey among those with long COVID has found that the over 90% continue to experience a wide range of symptoms for over 35 weeks.

While early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there was considerable focus on mortality, an emerging theme has been the presence of prolonged symptoms, even among those with mild disease and which has been termed long COVID. However, a precise definition of long COVID has remained elusive and a wide range of symptoms have been ascribed to the condition. In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have preferred the term “post-COVID conditions”, as an umbrella term for the wide range of health consequences that are present four of more weeks after infection with the virus. In trying to more clearly define the patient experience and recovery process, a team from Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, University College London, UK, conducted an online survey among those who have suffered with long COVID symptoms. The aim was to better understand the lived experience with an emphasis on symptom trajectory and severity over time and the return to baseline. The research team worked closely with a patients who had themselves suffered with COVID-19 and who helped to create the survey. In addition, the researchers worked with a number of other patients to compile the list of symptoms and questions related to how long COVID symptoms impacted on daily life. The final survey included 257 questions that required over an hour to complete although respondents were permitted up to 30 days to complete it. Though created in English, the questionnaire was translated into several other languages including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and Russian. It was distributed via support groups e.g., Body Politic, Long COVID Support Group and social media, e.g., Twitter, Facebook and data collected between September 2020 and November 2020. The team quantified disease duration, severity and symptom prevalence and respondents were asked to indicate the number of days that each of a listed number of symptoms persisted.

Findings
There were 3,762 usable responses received from predominately women (78.9%), of white ethnicity (85.3%) with the highest proportion (31%) aged between 40 and 49 years. Overall, 91.9% of respondents answered the questions in English. For the complete cohort, 2454 individuals (65%) experienced symptoms which lasted for at least six months and the authors calculated the probability of symptoms lasting beyond 35 weeks as 91.8%. Symptoms affected 10 different organ systems and the most frequent still present after 6 months were fatigue (>95%), post-exertional malaise (approx. 90%) and cognitive dysfunction (88%). Moreover, 85.9% of respondents experienced a relapse of long COVID symptoms often triggered by exercise (70.7%), mental activities (46.2%) and stress (58.9%) and 45.2% had to reduce their work schedule because of symptoms.

Commenting on these findings, the authors reported on how long COVID symptoms appeared to be a heterogenous mix affecting many different organ systems. The authors also felt that the morbidity of COVID-19 has often been greatly overlooked and created a hugely negative impact upon sufferers’ quality of life, highlighting the need for multidisciplinary research to develop effective treatments.

Citation
Davis HE et al. Characterising long COVID in an international cohort: 7 months of symptoms and their impact. EClinicalMedicine 2021.