There are minimal data regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis used as an anti-cancer agent or for symptom management in pediatric oncology. We aimed to characterize the prevalence and factors associated with the use of cannabis for the treatment of cancer and management of cancer-related symptoms in children during or after cancer treatment.
An anonymous 40 question paper survey was offered to patients/caregivers of children with cancer attending a pediatric oncology clinic in a provincially mandated cancer agency between October 2019 and March 2020.
There were 64 respondents included in the analysis. Fourteen participants (N=14/64; 22%) reported use of cannabis, of which half used cannabis for either cancer treatment or symptom management, or both. Leukemia (n=9/14; 64%) was the most frequent diagnosis in children whose caregivers reported using cannabis and the majority of them were still receiving active cancer treatment (N= 5/9; 56%). All of the respondents using cannabis (14/14, 100%) experienced symptom improvement. Most of the caregivers procured cannabis from their friends (N=5/14; 36%), and oil was the most commonly used formulation (N=12/14; 86%). Cannabis-related information was received from another parent (N=4/14; 29%) or from a doctor (N=4/14; 29%). The reported monthly expenditure on cannabis varied widely from less than $50 CAD (N=4/14; 29%) to more than $500 CAD (N=3/14; 21%).
Our survey shows that cannabis, mostly oil products, was used by one-fifth of children with cancer during or after the completion of cancer treatment. These findings require validation in a larger nationwide survey.