Medical marijuana use in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients treated with radiotherapy

Support Care Cancer. 2016 Aug;24(8):3517-24. doi: 10.1007/s00520-016-3180-8. Epub 2016 Mar 23.


Purpose: The purpose of the study was to better understand why patients with history of head and neck cancer (HNC) treated with radiotherapy are using medical marijuana (MM).

Methods: Established HNC quality of life questionnaires and our own MM quality of life questionnaire were sent to 15 HNC patients treated at our institution who reported using MM. Patients are clinically disease free and currently using MM to manage long-term side effects after curative HNC treatment.

Results: There was a 100 % response rate. Median time from treatment was 45 months (21-136 months). Most patients smoked marijuana (12 patients), while others reported ingestion (4 patients), vaporizing (3 patients), and use of homemade concentrated oil (1 patient). Six patients reported prior recreational marijuana use before diagnosis. MM provided benefit in altered sense, weight maintenance, depression, pain, appetite, dysphagia, xerostomia, muscle spasm, and sticky saliva.

Conclusions: HNC patients report MM use to help with long-term side effects of radiotherapy.

Keywords: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; Medical cannabis and medical marijuana; Quality of life; Questionnaire; Radiotherapy and chemoradiotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / radiotherapy*
  • Female
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana / administration & dosage
  • Medical Marijuana / pharmacology
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Medical Marijuana