Cancer pain is a debilitating symptom experienced by a significant number of individuals undergoing cancer treatment or living with advanced or terminal disease. Traditional pain management approaches often involve the use of powerful opioids and other medications. But, these may not always provide adequate relief and can be accompanied by undesirable side effects. However, recent research suggests that medical cannabis could be a valuable complementary therapy for cancer patients. Offering both pain relief and a reduction in the need for opioids and other medications. This article explores the findings of several studies that highlight the potential benefits of medical cannabis in relieving cancer-related pain and reducing medication dependency.

Understanding the Impact of Cancer Pain

Pain affects a majority of patients undergoing cancer treatment, with approximately 55% of individuals experiencing pain during this period. For those with advanced, metastatic, or terminal disease, the prevalence of pain increases to 66%. The current standard of care involves prescribing opioids and various medications to manage pain. However, despite these interventions, around one-third of patients continue to experience pain. Moreover, the use of opioids can lead to adverse effects such as nausea, constipation, sleepiness, and respiratory depression. As a result, alternative approaches that can provide effective pain relief with fewer side effects are highly sought after.

Exploring the Role of Medical Cannabis for Cancer Pain Relief

Research conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) suggests that medical cannabis could offer a safe and effective complementary treatment for cancer-related pain. The study, led by Dr. Antonio Vigano, evaluated the use of regulated medical cannabis products in a cohort of cancer patients. The results demonstrated significant reductions in pain scores after three months of medical cannabis use. With sustained effects observed over a one-year period. Moreover, patients were able to gradually reduce their reliance on other pain medications over time.

The Importance of THC:CBD Balance

One key finding from the study was the potential efficacy of medical cannabis products with a balanced ratio of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Instead of favoring one active ingredient over the other, products with an equal balance of THC and CBD appeared to be more effective in providing pain relief. This finding underscores the importance of considering the composition of medical cannabis products when determining their potential therapeutic benefits.

The Quebec Cannabis Registry Study

The results of the study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre were based on data obtained from the Quebec Cannabis Registry (QCR). The QCR is a comprehensive database that collects information from multiple institutions and clinics across Quebec. It includes data from over 3,000 patients who were initiated on medical cannabis for various medical purposes between May 2015 and October 2018. The registry serves as a valuable resource for evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis in a real-world clinical setting.

Patient Characteristics and Pain Evaluation

The study included 358 adults with cancer, with an average age of 57. Nearly half of the participants were men, and the most common cancer diagnoses were genitourinary, breast, bowel, lung, and blood cancer. Pain intensity, symptoms, the total number of medications taken, and daily morphine use were evaluated at three-month intervals. The researchers also assessed overall pain severity, pain relief, and pain interference with daily life in the previous 24 hours.

Positive Outcomes and Safety Profile

The findings of the study indicated statistically significant decreases in pain intensity, overall pain severity. As well as, pain interference at three, six, and nine months. Patients reported clinical and statistically significant improvements in pain scores. Thus, suggesting that medical cannabis could be a promising option for cancer pain relief. The study also highlighted the safety profile of medical cannabis, with only a small number of patients experiencing moderate to severe side effects. The most common side effects reported were sleepiness and fatigue, and only a handful of patients discontinued medical cannabis due to side effects.

The Need for Further Research

While the results of the observational study are promising, the authors emphasize the importance of conducting randomized, placebo-controlled trials to confirm and expand upon their findings. Additionally, personalized treatment approaches should be explored to optimize the use of medical cannabis for individual patients. As medical cannabis is a complex medication, it requires a combination of theoretical knowledge and clinical experience. This is to achieve the best clinical outcomes. Further research is necessary to establish standardized and effective ways to personalize medical cannabis treatments based on individual responses.


Medical cannabis shows great promise as a safe and effective complementary treatment option for cancer-related pain. The findings from the observational study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre. This study indicates that medical cannabis, particularly products with a balanced THC:CBD ratio. Thus, providing significant pain relief while reducing the need for opioids and other medications. However, more research is needed to validate these findings and refine treatment protocols. As the medical community continues to explore the potential of medical cannabis. It offers hope for improved pain management and enhanced quality of life for cancer patients.