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Oct 16th 2022
Doobies and Boobies: Looking into Medical Marijuana and Breast Cancer

According to the Center for Disease Control, around 264,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,400 in men each year 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, and 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, where cells in the ducts (the milk ducts) or the lobules (glands in the breast that make milk). Invasive, or infiltrating breast cancer affects the tissues and organs surrounding the breasts.

There has been growing discussion about the role of medical cannabis in breast cancer, and whether it can affect cancer itself, or, more specifically, help cancer patients with symptoms of the disease and any associated treatments. At Compassionate Clinics of America, it’s important we give our Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Missouri patients as much information as possible to help them understand medical marijuana while also helping them make informed choices on their treatment plans.

If you have recently received a breast cancer diagnosis, or are going through treatment, and are considering a medical cannabis certification, this article will help you understand some of the research surrounding this treatment route.

Can Cannabis Cure Breast Cancer?

One of the most important aspects of responsible cannabis education is never giving patients false information or false hope about the effectiveness of medical marijuana for curing disease or conditions. With legal medical cannabis being relatively new across some states, and remaining federally illegal, there has not been enough research to fully understand cannabis’ role as an anti-tumour or anti-proliferative (prevents spreading), so its too early to make the call as to whether cannabis can “kill cancer”.

Medical Marijuana Certifications: Cannabis for Breast Cancer
Photo by American Cancer Society

Rick Simpson Oil, commonly 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 suggest this concentrate is an effective killer of breast cancer. However, many going through treatment will use RSO to handle the symptoms of treatment and chemotherapy, including reducing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, while also treating pain and improve appetite. As we mentioned, in some cases, RSO has been believed to prevent the spreading of tumors, but this cannot be fully proven.

Can Medical Marijuana Hinder Breast Cancer Treatment Progress?

In a recent online survey, 42% of the 600 participants with breast cancer indicated that they are using medical marijuana to treat nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, anxiety and stress. Physicians raised concerns about this, saying that many breast cancer patients are not disclosing their use of medical marijuana to their health care providers, which concerns some doctors, as there could be negative interactions between marijuana and other medications that can significantly impact treatment. We always suggest that you disclose medical marijuana use to your medical practitioner and oncologist to ensure your safety during treatment.

Cannabis for Nausea and Vomiting During Cancer Treatment

As mentioned, many cancer patients will turn to medical cannabis to help decrease nausea and vomiting during cancer treatments like chemotherapy.

Cannabis and “cancer anorexia” (loss of appetite) has been under investigation since the 1980s, seeking to show that THC can help improve taste and smell, appetite, caloric intake, and quality of life for cancer patients with chemosensory alterations due to cancer treatments. A 2011 study published in Annals of Oncology looked at 21 participants, half of which were administered THC (via the THC-based cannabis drug Marinol), while the other half were administered a placebo. THC-treated patients reported that food “tasted better”, had an increased pre-meal appetite, and consumed more calories as compared to the group who didn’t receive Marinol.

With this taken into account, it shows that for many, cannabis can be a powerful accompaniment to breast cancer treatments in that it may reduce discomfort and help patients continue eating to maintain strength.

Cannabis for Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain, or neuropathy, describes symptoms arising from damage to peripheral nerves through chemotherapy treatments. These nerves carry sensation, control movements of the arms and legs, and control the bladder and bowel, which is why neuropathic pain can be so debilitating for some cancer patients.

Preliminary studies are showing that cannabis may be effective in reducing this type of pain, with it being suggested using cannabis before treatment can increase the effectiveness of cannabis for neuropathic pain reduction.

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, with some researchers warning that cannabis may interfere with the body’s processing of the drug, leading the patient to receive little to no benefit from this particular medication.

Engage in Regular Screening 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 engage in 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.

 

Medical Cannabis Certification: Cannabis for Breast Cancer

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 indicate 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 are not confident in the research yet to say that cannabis can majorly affect breast cancer, especially in terms of its potential anti-tumor properties. However, we are staying closely in tune with the emerging research so we can always stay on top of new developments to help our Illinois, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oklahoma patients thoroughly understand cannabis through the process of obtaining and utilizing a medical cannabis certification.

If you or a loved one is experiencing breast cancer, and you’re interested to see how it may improve symptoms of treatments, reach out to us to explore your medical cannabis certification. Stay tuned to our patient education series as we continue to release regular information that will help you with your medical cannabis journey. At Compassionate Clinics of America, we are health and wellness: re-imagined.

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