Cannabis Patient Care - November 2021

Cannabis Patient Care November Issue

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8 cannabis patient care | vol. 2 no. 3 doctor focus M ARISA WEISS, M.D., is the founder and chief med- ical officer of, a leading online re- source for expert medical and personal informa- tion on breast health and breast cancer. With more than 35 years of active practice in the Philadelphia region, Dr. Weiss currently practices at Lankenau Medical Center, part of Main Line Health, a five-hospital health system in the sub- urbs of Philadelphia, where she serves as director of breast radiation oncology and director of breast health outreach. Patients have been utilizing medical cannabis for many years to manage symptoms, side effects of treatment, and other mental health challenges that often come along with the diagnosis of cancer. In fact, one of the most widely stud- ied therapeutic applications for cannabis is in the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Yet for many patients, talking with their healthcare providers for the first time about utilizing cannabis in their treatment regimen can feel intimidating and scary. Healthcare providers are accustomed to patients bringing ideas to them about treatment options and preferences, and cannabis therapeutics should be no different. Just like tradi- tional medications, cannabis can interact with other medi- cations and treatments, so it is important to make sure that your provider has the full picture and can monitor your pro- gress or make adjustments if needed. We sat down with the founder and chief medical officer of, Dr. Marisa Weiss, to get some tips and talk- ing points to help patients start this conversation about the therapeutic use of cannabis for breast cancer. Dr. Weiss shares how cannabis can be utilized for symptom manage- ment before, during, and after breast cancer treatment, why cannabis can be a complicated topic for doctors to discuss with their patients, and why it is important for patients to advocate for themselves. Q: How did you first start hearing about cannabis use for symptom and side effect relief from breast cancer? A: Dr. Weiss: From my patients. So, it never came from any medical source. It was patient after patient asking about it. And initially, I would say 'You know, that's a really good question, you need to talk to an expert about it' and I would encourage them to find somebody who could answer their questions. A few of them came back and said, 'I'm still interested in that subject but couldn't find any experts in that arena of cannabis for the management of quality of life, symptoms, etc., for people with breast cancer. Then a specific patient of mine came back and said: 'That's not a good enough answer, you really need to get more knowledgeable about this. You're a leader in the field of patient centric care through and you really need to become a leader in this arena.' And I said: 'Well, you're right!' These patients were really suffering from symptoms and nothing else seemed to help them. Patients have to go through their state medical cannabis program in which they have to pay out of pocket for the cost of the doctor visit, certification, and all products, paid for in cash without the help of insurance. So it was clear that this was an important enough issue for which people were saying 'I'll use my precious personal funds to pay for it,' which is not really fair if people have to pay out of pock- et for something that is helping them from a medical point of view and is not covered by insurance. So, right now it is only an available option for those people who are privileged enough to be able to access and afford it. Q: What did you do to help educate yourself about the therapeutic use of cannabis for patients with breast cancer? A: Dr. Weiss: I first did the course work that's required to certify a medical cannabis patient in the state of Pennsylvania and then the state of New York. But that's only a four hour course that's required, so it's not enough knowledge to really be able to understand the potential role that cannabis products may have to solve difficult issues for people going through breast cancer, especially those who are seeking natural remedies or who don't want to go on pharmaceuticals or who want to avoid narcotics and associated risks. So I did extensive training and started to see patients within my own practice. At we decided that we needed to know more details about people's lives: what symptoms they're suf- fering from; which of those symptoms are they getting relief through traditional medicines; for which symptoms are they Talking with Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis and Breast Cancer B Y D E B B I E C H U R G A I

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