Jennifer Graham, MSN, RN, AGCNS-BC

Do you have a patient who wants to use nonpharmaceutical approaches to manage side effects? How about patients who are urging their providers to think outside the box of big pharma? As an oncology nurse, what do you know about alternatives, such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil? Are you equipped to have an educated (and legal) conversation with your patients?

Patients with cancer face treatment options ranging from monotherapy, which includes surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy alone, to combination therapy, which may include all modalities of treatment. Advances in antiemetics and anxiolytics during the past decade have led to a decrease in treatment-related side effects. Gone are the days of patients receiving chemotherapy who must be sedated throughout treatment to decrease nausea and vomiting.

Patients with cancer still live with debilitating side effects of treatment, such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and anxiety, every day and are often nervous about asking their providers about alternative treatments. Thankfully, they can turn to their trusty oncology nurses for the answers. But can they? If we, their healthcare providers, do not educate ourselves, and our patients can’t get the answers they are looking for from us, we risk them turning to non–evidence-based resources, such as Dr. Google. Oncology nurses have a responsibility to be educated and aware of all symptom management options—and the legal way to discuss those options—to equip our patients and their families with accurate information.

CBD oil and its potential benefits are constantly being covered on news outlets and magazines, but how do we sort through the information and media to understand the facts? I don’t know about you, but unless the information is coming from an evidence-based research article, it’s as useful as the National Enquirer. Unfortunately, our patients are as confused as many of us are by the media. This is leading to family and friends encouraging patients undergoing cancer treatments to try alternatives like CBD oil to help relieve their side effects without consulting evidence-based sources. How can we, as healthcare providers, guide our patients to make the best choices?

Patients with cancer are asking their nurses questions like the following:

– Isn’t CBD an illegal drug?
– How is CBD different from marijuana?
– Won’t you get “high” from CBD oil?
– Can CBD oil be a helpful option for managing side effects?

Our patients are seeking information and guidance from oncology nurses, so let’s equip ourselves to have educated conversations with our patients and enable them to make the best decisions for themselves. After all, knowledge is power.

This subject, among many other cutting-edge topics, will be explored at Congress in 2020. Held in San Antonio, Texas, from April 29 to May 3, 2020, the ONS 45th Annual Congress will welcome nurses from across the globe to celebrate their power, passion, and purpose. Register now, and start planning your trip!

Please join the discussion of “Navigating Cannabis in Patients With Cancer” with Eloise Theisen, MSN, AGPCNP-BC, from the American Cannabis Nurses Association on Saturday, May 2, 2020, from 3 pm to ­4 pm.