October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
You may have heard that cannabis can be used to treat cancer, but you may not know the specifics. In this post, we'll explore the role of CBD and THC in breast cancer.
October is the time when women are reminded about their breast health. If you go for your mammogram and get the unfortunate diagnosis of breast cancer........what then?
My Mom's Story
My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 56. It was a lump they had been following for a while and it was time to get it removed. She went into the hospital for a lumpectomy and came out without a breast! I was so angry about that!!!! It seemed so drastic!! She wore a prosthesis for the most part but as she got older she didn’t even wear that! It laid on the table most of the time. Her fake boob! I still don't know what type of cancer it was, I wish I did.
When I was 32, my provider demanded I get a baseline mammogram due to my Mom’s history. The girl that did the test at the hospital, Linda, (I don't fondly remember her name) pressed the plates together against my breast so hard that there was an audible “pop” followed by a dark green discharge that came out of the nipple. I was also bruised all around the breast. That experience pretty much created a deep fear in me to ever get another mammogram. I avoided it for years after the recommended age for screening had passed.
Finally, (I don’t remember my age), I came to my senses and scheduled another mammogram. This time there was a dedicated breast center and the experience was much more tolerable. I am a terrible patient, so I let the yearly screening come and go and was not good at being diligent with that. Besides, my mammograms were usually normal. A couple of times, there were some “calcifications” that looked suspicious so they would call me back in for a diagnostic mammogram to look further.
In 2015, I was supposed to get my screening mammogram done in January. I already mentioned I am a terrible patient and before I realized it the year was almost gone. I scheduled my test on my birthday in November. I figured that would be an easy way to remember to get this done every year. I got a call the next day that I had a suspicious lesion that was likely cancer. WHAT????? Yep, ER/PR+ HER2- 1 cm DCIS tumor. I had a breast MRI to make sure there were no abnormal findings anywhere else in the surrounding musculature or bones. It was all normal. I had a lumpectomy and they removed 4 lymph nodes. Once the surgical site healed, I had 33 radiation treatments. It was a scary process but I am, at the time of this writing, cancer free.
The standard care approach to breast health is to perform monthly self breast exams, have your breasts examined by a health care provider every 1-2 years and once you reach the age of 40 (some camps say 45) you need a mammogram every 1-2 years. Breast MRIs are also diagnostic but are more expensive and of course, insurance isn't going to jump on the band wagon too quick to pay for this imaging study. Ultrasound is done if you are younger due to more dense breast tissue. The other option which is non-invasive is thermography. This test detects inflammation which is the precursor to cancer by heat. It is a good test but not recognized by the FDA.
Types of Breast Cancer
First, it's important to understand that there are two main types of breast cancer:
- hormone receptor-positive: is the most common type, accounting for about 80% of all breast cancers.
- triple-negative Hormone receptor-positive breast cancer: this cancer is not fueled by estrogen or any other hormone. This type of cancer is more aggressive and harder to treat. There is currently no targeted treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, which is why new treatments are always being explored.
CBD and THC are two cannabinoids that have shown promise in treating breast cancer. CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which means it won't get you high. THC, on the other hand, is the cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis.
CBD and Breast Cancer
Studies have shown that CBD can inhibit the growth of both hormone receptor-positive and triple-negative breast cancer cells. In one study, CBD was found to decrease the growth of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells by up to 50%. This is significant because hormone therapy is currently the most effective treatment for this type of breast cancer.
CBD has also been shown to inhibit the growth of triple-negative breast cancer cells in vitro (in a dish). In one study, CBD reduced the proliferation of triple-negative breast cancer cells by up to 73%. This is significant because there is currently no targeted treatment for this aggressive form of breast cancer except mastectomy and chemotherapy.
THC and Breast Cancer
THC has also been shown to inhibit the growth of both hormone receptor-positive and triple-negative breast cancer cells in vitro (in a dish). In one study, THC reduced the proliferation of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer cells by up to 50%. This is significant because hormone therapy is currently the most effective treatment for this type of breast cancer.
Triple-negative Breast Cancer Cells: In another study , THC was found to reduce the number of triple - negative breast cancer cells by up to 80% . This study used a three - drug combination consisting of THC , CBD ,and temozolomide (Temodar) (an anti -cancer drug) . This study suggests that a combination of THC, CBD ,and temozolomide may be more effective than temozolomide alone in treating triple - negative breast cancer.
There is still a lot of research to be done on the role of cannabinoids in cancer treatment , but the results so far are promising . If you are considering using cannabis oil for breast cancer, be sure to talk to your doctor first as it can interact with other medications you maybe taking. Don't be surprised if your doctor is not supportive. Most doctors know very little about the benefits of cannabis.
I love this podcast and have included several episodes pertaining to breast cancer and the use of THC & CBD.
Thanks for reading and let's Break the Stigma!!!
I didn't have a mammogram last year but had thermography which was normal. I can guarantee that if I should go through this experience again, I will choose THC and CBD over surgery, radiation and chemo in a heartbeat!
Thanks for reading my blog. If you struggle with cancer of any kind, please consider using plant medicine as part of your therapy.