(HealthDay News) — A considerable proportion of patients with breast cancer report using cannabis for relief of symptoms, according to a study published online Oct. 12 in Cancer.

Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., from Breastcancer.org in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and colleagues invited individuals (age ≥18 years) with a self-reported diagnosis of breast cancer within five years to participate in an anonymous online survey. Nonidentifiable data were collected and analyzed after informed consent was obtained.

The researchers found that 42 percent of the 612 participants reported using cannabis for relief of symptoms, including pain, insomnia, anxiety, stress, and nausea/vomiting (78, 70, 57, 51, and 46 percent, respectively). Forty-nine percent of cannabis users believed that medical cannabis could be used to treat cancer.

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Seventy-nine percent of those taking cannabis had used it during treatment, including systemic therapies, radiation, and surgery. However, few (39 percent) had discussed it with any of their physicians.

“Our study highlights an important opportunity for providers to initiate informed conversations about medical cannabis with their patients, as the evidence shows that many are using medical cannabis without our knowledge or guidance,” Weiss said in a statement. “Not knowing whether or not our cancer patients are using cannabis is a major blind spot in our ability to provide optimal care, and as health care providers, we need to do a better job of initiating informed conversations about medical cannabis with our patients.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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