October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. We want to do our part and help raise awareness about Breast Cancer, and provide insight to the connection to medical marijuana in helping manage the symptoms of Breast Cancer, and highlight promising studies for the antiproliferative effects of CBD - including the slowing of metastasis and even apoptosis in certain cases.
While October is dedicated to raising awareness about the disease, it is also intended to raise awareness for the importance of taking steps to plan for early detection. The National Breast Cancer Foundation is an excellent resource for providing information about the disease, and has a great section on their website dedicated to early detection planning.
What is Breast Cancer?
According BreastCancer.org, Breast Cancer is an uncontrolled growth of breast cells. The term Breast Cancer actually encompasses a variation of Breast Cancers including Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Triple Negative Breast Cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Metastatic Breast Cancer, Medullary Carcinoma, Tubular Carcinoma, and Mucinous Carcinoma. The American Cancer Society recommends the following preventative measures:
● Women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms (x-rays of the breast) if they wish to do so.
● Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year.
● Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.
Breastcancer.org provides a much more in depth explanation of breast cancer:
“Cancer occurs as a result of mutations, or abnormal changes, in the genes responsible for regulating the growth of cells and keeping them healthy. The term “breast cancer” refers to a malignant tumor that has developed from cells in the breast. Usually breast cancer either begins in the cells of the lobules, which are the milk-producing glands, or the ducts, the passages that drain milk from the lobules to the nipple. Less commonly, breast cancer can begin in the stromal tissues, which include the fatty and fibrous connective tissues of the breast. Over time, cancer cells can invade nearby healthy breast tissue and make their way into the underarm lymph nodes, small organs that filter out foreign substances in the body. If cancer cells get into the lymph nodes, they then have a pathway into other parts of the body. The breast cancer’s stage refers to how far the cancer cells have spread beyond the original tumor. Breast cancer is always caused by a genetic abnormality (a “mistake” in the genetic material). However, only 5-10% of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. Instead, 85-90% of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the “wear and tear” of life in general.“
While each Breast Cancer type carries unique characteristics and challenges, women in the United States face some startling statistics.
● 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer in their lifetime.
● Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.
● Each year it is estimated that over 246,660 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 40,000 will die.
● On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and 1 woman will die of breast cancer every 13 minutes.
● Over 2.8 million breast cancer survivors are alive in the United States today.
Medical Cannabis and Managing Breast Cancer Symptoms.
Many Breast Cancer patients undergo a series of challenging symptoms during their treatment including nausea stemming from chemotherapy, pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression. Medical cannabis has proven to tackle many of these symptoms depending on the strain, cannabinoid profile, and terpene profile.
Essentially, cannabinoids are the chemical compounds which provide medicinal effects in cannabis, while terpenes are the essential oils which provide the flavor, smell, and also medicinal effects in their own right. For example, the cannabinoid CBD (Cannabidiol) is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, neuroprotective and pain-killing properties. Limonene is a terpene often found in varieties of cannabis which provides a citrus aroma and taste, and is known to be antifungal, antibacterial, and provide mood elevation, stress relief, and even weight loss.
There are also various types of Cannabis ranging from indica, to sativa, to hybrids, and CBD. Indicas tend to provide pain relief, a body high, and some varieties can provide a sedative effect. Sativas tend to provide an uplifting feeling, a cerebral (head) high, and many varieties can even provide an energetic effect. Hybrids are somewhere in the middle, depending on which strain, these can either lean towards a sativa leaning hybrid, or an indica leaning hybrid. CBD is a non-psychoactive form of cannabis which keep you clear headed while providing an enumeration of medicinal effects.
We recommend talking with your patient consultant about your individual needs, and evaluating the best form and type of medicine to help manage your symptoms. As always, we recommend seeking advice from your physician to ensure proper medical advice prior to your consultation.
Medical Cannabis and Antitumor Effects.
In 2010, a group of Spanish Researchers published a study in the journal of Molecular Cancer to evaluate cannabinoids as a therapeutic tool for the treatment of the aggressive form of Breast Cancer, HER2-positive Breast Cancer. Medical Jane explains the promising results:
“In studying the human cancer tissue, the researchers found that cannabinoids may inhibit cell proliferation and induce programmed cell death, or apoptosis. According to the study, cannabinoids also seem to “impair tumor angiogenesis,” which allows tumors to receive more nutrients by causing blood vessels to grow. One of the most pertinent findings, according to the study, is that 91% of HER2-positive tumors actively express CB2 receptors. As we know, both THC and CBD interact with CB2 receptors, and this could explain their interaction with breast cancer.”
Another study published by the California Pacific Medical Research Center found that CBD specifically may be effective in reducing the progression of tumor growth and inhibiting metastasis. Dr. Sean McAllister, one of the lead researchers in the study, claims that CBD appears to inhibit the Id-1 and Akt genes, which have been known to play a role in the progress of tumor growth.
Directly from the National Cancer Institute’s website, another study found that “An in vitro study of the effect of CBD on programmed cell death in breast cancer cell lines found that CBD induced programmed cell death, independent of the CB1, CB2, or vanilloid receptors. CBD inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor–positive and estrogen receptor–negative breast cancer cell lines, inducing apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner while having little effect on nontumorigenic mammary cells.”
While these studies are certainly promising, there needs to be a much larger amount of studies conducted in order to solidify an accurate portrayal of the potential antitumor effects of cannabis. Breast Cancer is a serious disease, and must be treated as such. We highly recommend seeking professional medical advice, and following your physician’s recommendations.
It’s crucial to raise awareness of Breast Cancer and the importance of planning for early detection. While cannabis has shown effective (and is recognized even by the American Cancer Society as being effective) in managing symptoms, there is simply not enough research at this time to suggest that the promising results from the aforementioned studies are absolute. We encourage you to reach out to your local, state, and federal politicians and stress the importance of allowing for greater research to be conducted on medical marijuana.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. We are always happy to help in any way we can. You can reach us directly at (702) 778-7987 and firstname.lastname@example.org.