Oct 16th 2022
An Honest Look into Medical Cannabis and Breast Cancer
264,000 women receive a breast cancer diagnosis every year, along with 2,400 in the United States. Of those diagnoses, 42,000 women and 500 men lose their lives each year.
As we know, cancer is a disease in the body in which the cells grow out of control. Breasts are an organ that contains glands, ducts, and fatty tissue. Breast cancer occurs when these cells proliferate (spread). Breast cancer can spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system. The most common form of breast cancer is carcinoma, that form in the shape of tumors in the milk glands and ducts. Invasive, or infiltrating breast cancer affects the tissues and organs surrounding the breasts.
There is growing interest on how medical cannabis affects the spread of breast cancer as well as the symptoms of the disease. At Compassionate Clinics of America, it’s important we give our patients information so they can make informed choices on their treatment plans.
If you have recently received a breast cancer diagnosis, and are considering a medical cannabis certification, this article summarize some the research surrounding cannabis for breast cancer.
Is Cannabis a Possible Breast Cancer Treatment?
One of the most important aspects of responsible cannabis education is never giving patients false information or false hope about what cannabis can do. With legal medical cannabis being new across some states, and remaining federally illegal, there has not been enough research to fully understand cannabis’ affect on how cancer can spread. Therefore, its too early to say whether cannabis can “kill cancer”.
Rick Simpson Oil, also known as RSO, is a high-THC concentrate that its creator claims can help stop the spread of cancer. While there are some promising stories of RSO doing just this, there isn’t enough evidence to say RSO can kill of breast cancer cells. However, many going through treatment will use RSO to handle the symptoms of treatment and chemotherapy. These effects include reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, treating pain, and improving appetite. As we mentioned, in some cases, RSO has been said to prevent the spreading of tumors, but this cannot be fully proven.
Can Cannabis Harm Breast Cancer Treatment?
In a recent online survey, 42% of 600 participants with breast cancer said that they are using medical marijuana for nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, anxiety and stress. Physicians were concerned about patients telling oncologists about cannabis use. This could negatively affect treatments. We always suggest that you tell your oncologist if you are using medical cannabis.
Cannabis for Nausea and Vomiting During Breast Cancer Treatment
As mentioned, many cancer patients will use medical cannabis for nausea and vomiting from cancer treatments.
Cannabis and “cancer anorexia” (loss of appetite) has been under investigation since the 1980s. Studies show that THC can help improve taste and smell, appetite, caloric intake, and quality of life for cancer patients. A 2011 study published in Annals of Oncology looked at 21 participants, half of which took THC (via the THC-based cannabis drug Marinol), while the other half took a placebo. Those who had THC said that food “tasted better”, had an increased pre-meal appetite. They also consumed more calories as compared to the group who didn’t receive Marinol.
This shows that cannabis may be able to reduce discomfort and help with appetite during cancer treatments.
Cannabis for Breast Cancer Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain, or neuropathy is the symptoms from damage to peripheral nerves through chemotherapy treatments. These nerves carry sensations to the brain, control movement of the arms, legs, bladder, and bowel. This is why neuropathic pain can be so debilitating for some cancer patients.
Preliminary studies show that cannabis can reduce neuropathic pain. It is also shown that using it before treatment may reduce resulting neuropathic pain.
Warnings for Breast Cancer Medications & Cannabis Use
While we consider cannabis to be a generally safe plant to consume, breast cancer patients who have been prescribed Tamoxifen (Nolvadex® or Soltamox®) may have its benefits cancelled out when combined with marijuana.
Some researchers warn that cannabis may interfere with the body’s processing of the drug, leading the patient to receive little to no benefit from this medication.
Regular Screenings for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is something that can be treated, even recovered from, if the cancer is caught early and treatment is sought early. One of the most effective ways to prevent breast cancer is to do regular breast screenings to look for lumps, or hard masses of tissue.
Here is a brief overview of conducting a breast exam.
1. Take a visual look. As you stand in front of a mirror, look for changes in size, symmetry or any puckering or dimpling. Do this first by pressing your hands down on your hips and taking a look, and then follow this with raising your arms, to get a full view of your breasts. Watch for any ridges along the bottom of the breast.
2. Either lying down or in the shower, use the three middle fingers and the pads of your fingers to directly feel your breasts. Use different levels of pressure to ensure you are examining deep enough. Use a pattern like a clockwork motion to ensure you’re covering the whole breast, and make sure you also include the nipple and surrounding areas. Take notice of areas that are more solid, dense masses.
Getting regular mammograms will also help determine any presence of breast cancer. If you have concerns about a lump, contact your doctor. Also be aware that breasts can be dense and fibrous, and it doesn’t always mean the presence of cancer. It’s always best to get any concerns checked out by a doctor.
Explore Cannabis & Breast Cancer with Compassionate Clinics of America
We cannot say that cannabis can “cure” breast cancer. However, we watching for more research so we can always stay on top of new developments to help patients understand medical cannabis.
If you or a loved one is experiencing breast cancer and are interested in cannabis, reach out to us to explore your medical cannabis certification. Stay tuned to our patient education series as we release more information. At Compassionate Clinics of America, we are health and wellness: re-imagined.