By Honey® Staff

What is Breast Cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), “Breast cancer starts when cells in the breast begin to grow out of control. These cells usually form a tumor that can often be seen on an x-ray or felt as a lump. The tumor is malignant (cancer) if the cells can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. Breast cancer occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get breast cancer, too.”

As the 2nd most common type of cancer for women[1] nearly 1 in 8 U.S. women (about 12.4%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime and about 40,920 women in the USA are expected to die from breast cancer in 2018[2]

What are cannabinoids?

Cannabinoids are a varied class of chemical compounds occurring naturally in the human body (endocannabinoids) and plants (phytocannabinoids). These cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in our bodies to trigger various physiological actions. Our ECS is the system responsible for maintaining homeostasis and regulating key bodily functions such as eating, sleeping, blood sugar levels and body temperature.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most well-known compound due to its psychoactive qualities, while cannabidiol (CBD) is psycho-passive and according to new research, may be responsible for most of the cannabis plant’s medicinal benefits.

5 Ways Cannabinoids in Medical Cannabis Can Assist With Breast Cancer Treatment

While there is much anecdotal evidence about the use of medical marijuana for cancer treatment and for related side effects from treatment, there are five categories of ailments where weed and specifically cannabinoids have been helpful.

Antitumor activity

While many of these studies were conducted on cancer cells in a petri dish or on mice, there is no doubt that cannabinoids are proven to have anti-tumor activity[3].

In a 2007 study by California Pacific Medical Center published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics ,”CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness.” This means CBD may slow or even stop the progression of metastatic breast cancer[4].

In a separate 2006 study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, “Results obtained in a panel of tumor cell lines clearly indicate that, of the five natural compounds tested, cannabidiol is the most potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth.[5]

Stimulating appetite

While chemotherapy has been proven to cure breast cancer, it can unfortunately cause many side effects, one r being a loss of appetite. Without eating and proper nutrition, it can be difficult for a person maintain body weight and health during chemotherapy treatment. Scientific data available suggests acute marijuana use stimulates hunger, and that pot use may increase body mass in low-weight individuals.

Since the 1970’s, human studies have confirmed the correlation with cannabis use and an increased appetite and cravings of food. Research conducted since has confirmed that marijuana increases both the desire to eat and the palatability of food.

“We all know cannabis use affects appetite, but until recently we’ve actually understood very little about how or why,” explained Jon Davis, Ph.D., researcher in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neurosciences at Washington State. “By studying exposure to cannabis plant matter, the most widely consumed form, we’re finding genetic and physiological events in the body that allow cannabis to turn eating behavior on or off.[6]

Nausea and vomiting

While it is important to have an appetite when being treated for cancer, keeping the food down can be a seperate and frustrating challenge. Cannabinoids have been successfully used in the treatment of chemotherapy related nausea and vomiting in cancer patients[7].

Cannabinoid receptors found in brain tissue cells likely have a role in controlling nausea and vomiting. Animal studies have shown that delta-9-THC, CBD, CBN and other cannabinoids may act on cannabinoid receptors to prevent vomiting caused by certain types of chemotherapy.

In adults with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, oral cannabinoids are proven to be effective antiemetics and enable patients to keep food down.[8]

Pain relief

Pain, whether cancer-related or chemotherapy-induced, is a frequent symptom and often creates a negative impact on a patient’s daily functions and quality of life. In fact, pain is the most common reason for cannabis use with the vast majority noting its help.[9]

Cannabinoid receptors (chemical molecules in our brain that bind to cannabinoids) have been studied in the spinal cord, brain and nerve endings in the bodies of animals to understand their roles in pain relief. Cannabinoid receptors are the “lock” to the “keys” that are cannabinoids and have shown therapeutic value against inflammatory and neuropathic pains, conditions that are often refractory to therapy.[10]

Interestingly, In a systematic review and meta-analysis released in September of 2018, scientists from Syracuse University show that while current scientific studies can’t prove that cannabinoid drugs reduce pain, research does demonstrate that they can help with the experience of feeling pain i.e. the unpleasantness and emotions surrounding pain[11].

Chemotherapy Induced Neuropathy

Chemotherapy can be necessary for many people battling breast cancer, but it can also negatively affect nerves connecting the spinal cord to skin, muscles, and internal organs. Symptoms include numbness, weakness, and pain to extremities like hands and feet. The pain is often described as stabbing, burning or tingling and can be extremely painful. This condition is known as peripheral neuropathy and can be long-term and even permanent.

Cannabidiol (CBD) the non-psychoactive cannabinoid, may help prevent paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy[12]

Will your doctor recommend cannabis for your breast cancer?

It can be difficult for a breast cancer patient to approach the idea of using cannabis with their doctor. However, recent studies show that physicians may be more open to the idea than you would think.

A study, published last week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, is the first national survey of medical oncologists to examine attitudes, knowledge, and practices since medical marijuana became legal in many states. While a wide majority of oncologists do not feel properly educated for clinical recommendations of medical marijuana’s utility, most do in fact conduct discussions in the clinic and nearly half provide recommendations to patients.

Additional findings of the current study suggest two-thirds of oncologists believe medical marijuana to be an effective adjunct to standard pain treatment, and equally or more effective than the standard therapies for symptoms like lack of appetite, nausea or, common side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.[13]

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always talk with your doctor about cannabis use.

  1. “Cancer Facts for Women | Most Common Cancers in Women.” 30 May. 2018, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  2. “U.S. Breast Cancer Statistics |” 9 Jan. 2018, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  3. “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)—Patient Version – National ….” 20 Dec. 2017, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  4. “Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of Id-1 gene expression in aggressive ….” 1 Nov. 2007, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  5. “Antitumor Activity of Plant Cannabinoids with Emphasis on the Effect of ….” Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  6. “How cannabis affects appetite: Brain changes — ScienceDaily.” 17 Jul. 2018, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  7. “Human studies of cannabinoids and medicinal cannabis. – NCBI.” Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  8. “Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids – The … – NCBI – NIH.” Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  9. “Prevalence of medical marijuana use in California, 2012. – NCBI.” 26 Sep. 2014, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  10. “Role of the Cannabinoid System in Pain Control and … – NCBI – NIH.” Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  11. “Association of Cannabinoid Administration With … – The JAMA Network.” 19 Sep. 2018, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  12. “Cannabidiol may help prevent paclitaxel-induced … – News-Medical.Net.” 26 Sep. 2011, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.
  13. “Many oncologists recommend medical marijuana … – ScienceDaily.” 10 May. 2018, Accessed 4 Oct. 2018.