Breast cancer is a dangerous and prevalent disease. It is believed one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. The prevalence in men is only around one in 1,000. About 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,290 cases of noninvasive breast cancer are expected to appear in the U.S. by the end of this year. Studies have shown certain cannabinoid receptors are “overexpressed on tumor cells,” especially tumor cells found in breast and lung cancers, which means they may be more susceptible to cannabinoid-based treatments.
The stages of breast cancer ranges from early and curable to metastatic. The condition can also affect men, and it should be taken seriously. Breast cancer in its early stages typically has no symptoms although as a tumor develops, there may be signs such as a lump in the breast or armpit, swelling in the armpit, tenderness in the breast, indentation or flattening in the breast, change in shape, texture, contour or temperature of the breast, pitted or reddish surfaces in the skin, secretion or discharge from the nipple.
There are different treatment methods available to address breast cancer depending on a patient’s health and age as well as the stage of the cancer. Local therapies such as surgery and radiation therapy are beneficial for early stage cancer. Systemic treatments such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy, and targeted therapy are also used to treat cancer. However, these treatments can severely affect the quality of one’s life and can have debilitating side effects.
These are the 4 categories of breast cancer based on how they show up on diagnostic tests:
Estrogen receptor positive (ER+) or progesterone receptor positive (PR+)
Research shows that cannabis can effectively treat PR+, HER2-positive and triple-negative breast cancers. Patients with triple-positive or ER+ type breast cancer may have a better chance of treatment by using strains that have a lower THC to CBD ratio.
Can Cannabis Really Help?
In order to better understand how cannabis helps breast cancer, it’s important to know how cancer develops in the first place. Breast cancer occurs when a malignant tumor grows in the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancerous cells that either grow or spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. While breast cancer occurs primarily in women, men are not immune.
Wondering whether THC or CBD is more effective for treating breast cancer?
Turns out, you may need both. While THC and CBD both possess cancer-fighting properties, their effects are amplified when combined.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that one of the most effective ways to kill breast cancer cells was to harness CBD and THC. While both CBD and THC can reduce cancer progression, they do so through unique anti-tumor pathways.
Combining these cannabinoids maximizes the treatment effectiveness. Particularly for patients facing metastatic breast cancer.
CBD contains cancer-fighting properties.
A study in 2011 revealed CBD helped facilitate apoptosis. AKA programmed cell death. In fact, the researchers found that CBD, a compound in the cannabis plant, targets breast cancer cells by facilitating apoptosis along with autophagy. Autophagy is the process in which our bodies remove debris, toxins, and recycles damaged cell components. Translating to “self-eating” – autophagy is one of the many ways our bodies remove accumulated toxins. So not only does cannabidiol cause tumor cells to self destruct, it also cleanses the body. Which means that CBD helps kill cancerous cells more effectively by relying on the body’s own intuitive processes.
Studies now suggest THC also possesses powerful anti-cancer effects.
Scientists in Spain discovered THC causes cancer cells to die via autophagy. Tetrahydrocannabidiol facilitates this process by regulating cell cycles of life and death. THC activates cannabinoid receptors over-expressed on tumor cells. In doing so, THC helps the body maintain homestasis – key to fighting off disease. Perhaps even more astonishing, THC also reduces the size of tumors. A study published in 2014 found that high doses of THC reduced the size of breast cancer tumors in mice. The findings revealed that THC did this by activating two cannabinoid receptors – CB2 receptor and the GPR55 receptor.
Many doctors already find that cannabis oil is beneficial for treating breast cancer. However, because there are different kinds of breast cancer, THC and CBD should be matched to the type of cancer. Some kinds of breast cancer are estrogen-positive which means that the tumor can grow if the patient consumes too much THC.
Cannabis for Side-Effects from Chemotherapy
Patients undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer can experience a wide-range of debilitating and painful side effects including: