Assessing Efficacy and Use Patterns of Medical Cannabis for Symptom Management in Elderly Cancer Patients

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2023 Apr;40(4):368-373. doi: 10.1177/10499091221110217. Epub 2022 Jun 24.


Objectives: Our study sought to further characterize patterns of medical cannabis use in elderly cancer patients. Furthermore, we sought to assess efficacy of medical cannabis for the treatment of pain, nausea, anorexia, insomnia and anxiety in elderly cancer patients.

Background: Medical cannabis use is growing for symptom management in cancer patients, but limited data exists on the safety or efficacy of use in elderly patients.

Methods: A retrospective chart review assessing changes in numerical symptom scores reported at clinic visits before and after medical cannabis initiation.

Results: There was no statistically significant difference in pain, nausea, appetite, insomnia or anxiety scores reported before and after initiation of medical cannabis. Oil was the most common form used, followed by vape, and the most common ratios used were high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to cannabidiol (CBD) and equal parts THC/CBD products.

Conclusion: This study did not find a statistically significant change in symptom scores with medical cannabis use, although further study is warranted given the limitations of the present study. Elderly patients most commonly are using equal parts THC/CBD or high THC ratio products initially.

Keywords: anorexia; anxiety; elderly cancer patients; insomnia; medical cannabis; nausea; pain.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cannabidiol*
  • Cannabis*
  • Dronabinol / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Medical Marijuana* / therapeutic use
  • Nausea / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms* / complications
  • Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Pain
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders*


  • Medical Marijuana
  • Cannabidiol
  • Dronabinol