Therapeutic cannabis use by patients with cancer in Canada: A national survey of the experiences, opinions and information needs of Radiation Therapists

J Med Imaging Radiat Sci. 2023 Dec;54(4S):S77-S86. doi: 10.1016/j.jmir.2023.08.013. Epub 2023 Oct 10.


Purpose: To understand the experiences, opinions and information needs of Canadian Radiation Therapists when caring for cancer patients who are taking cannabis for therapeutic purposes (CTP).

Methods: The study employed prospective data collection, via a single cross-sectional web-based questionnaire. After REB approval, the questionnaire was distributed electronically to all Radiation Therapists across Canada. The questionnaire was open for a one month accrual, with reminders sent at two and four weeks. The raw data was aggregated using standard descriptive statistics. The response differences between naturally occurring demographic cohorts was determined using inferential statistics.

Results: Two hundred and eighty two Therapists completed the questionnaire (25.6%), of which 19.1% reported being approached by patients to talk about cannabis more than once per month and 4.4% reported initiating a conversation with patients about cannabis. There were no differences between the provinces or catchment areas regarding how common or socially acceptable cannabis use by patients was. Confidence in discussing cannabis was strongly positively correlated with ratings of current knowledge (r² 0.77). Of the respondents, 99.9% believed that their radiation therapy training did not prepare them to support patients using cannabis.

Conclusions: The data revealed that patients more frequently seek out guidance for CTP than Therapists initiate those discussions. This lack of Therapist willingness to begin cannabis conversations was associated with the low levels of knowledge. Almost all Therapists recognized the limitations of their knowledge and expressed interest in receiving further information about cannabis. The findings of this study strongly advocate for the development of educational tools to meet Therapists clinical needs.

Keywords: Canada; Cancer; Cannabis; Radiation therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Canada
  • Cannabis*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / radiotherapy