October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Roughly 1 in 8 women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer in their lifetime. This year, over 330,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed just in the United States. What you may not realize is that roughly 1 in 1000 men, or over 2,500 this year, will also be diagnosed with the disease.
More than 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year, ranking it alongside lung cancer as the two deadliest forms of the disease. These stats are horrible, but it is important to note that they are in decline, and have been since the late 1980’s, due in large part to advances in treatment methods, earlier detection, and increased awareness.
But there is another reason that those affected by breast cancer today stand a much better chance than their counterparts from years past, and that reason is cannabis reform.
We have to be very careful as advocates of the cannabis plant to not oversell, or overpromise, its medicinal benefits. There are many headlines, and countless anecdotal stories, touting marijuana as a “cure” for cancer.
Cancer takes many different forms, and affects people in different ways, as does cannabis.
But we do need to push back a bit against a medical establishment that tends to downplay, or outright demonize, the cannabis plant, seemingly viewing cannabis as some sort of threat to their mission statements and bottom lines.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation, for example, is heavily associated with Breast Cancer Awareness, and takes credit for the pink socks, towels, and other gear that pops up in sports stadiums every October.
But on the “Marijuana” tab on their website, they offer this bit of info when asked if cannabis is safe to use:
The cannabinoid, dronabinol, which is found in marijuana, is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately as a prescription medication. Dronabinol (Marinol) is an FDA-approved prescription product.
Marijuana is POSSIBLY SAFE when used as a standardized mouth spray (Sativex).
Marijuana is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when smoked or taken by mouth as a plant or plant extract. It is classified as an illegal substance on the federal government level.
So, to recap, the two Big Pharma synthetic cannabis alternatives are ok, but everything else is “Possibly Unsafe” for no given reason other than the federal government isn’t down with it.
Between 1990 and 2014, over 60 peer-reviewed studies were conducted on the efficacy of medical marijuana versus ailments ranging from Parkinson’s disease, to various forms of cancer, and more. In the vast majority (68.3%) of these studies, it was determined that marijuana indeed had medicinal benefits, 23.3% were inconclusive and just 8.3% resulted in negative feedback.
At BreastCancer.org, their stance towards weed is a bit more balanced. Though they clearly state that, in their opinion, “It’s extremely important to know that marijuana is not a treatment for breast cancer,” they follow that up with, “People use marijuana to ease the side effects of treatment and pain caused by the cancer.”
Some of the symptoms that they say weed can help to ease are nausea, vomiting, pain, hot flashes, loss of appetite, anxiety, and insomnia. Ironically, the Susan G. Komen site blamed cannabis use for many of these same symptoms.
This conflicting information from two very official looking websites leads to confusion by patients who are already facing a scary and potentially deadly disease and are just seeking a better quality of life.
So what is the deal?
Does weed cure breast cancer?
Marijuana comes in many forms these days, from the traditional flowers and buds that you burn and smoke, to an incredibly wide array of edible options, to concentrated vaping options, sublingual sprays, transdermal patches, as a topical ointments & salve, cannabis suppositories, and more.
Most folks will agree that due to its concentrated potency, the most effective cannabis product for treating almost any form of cancer is with cannabis oil.
Cannabis oil is the sticky, gooey extract of the cannabis plant, and just a drop of it can contain 100mg or more of active THC, CBD, or both. When heated to a specific temperature, also known as decarboxylation, the oil can be vaped, eaten, or applied topically or via a suppository to take advantage of its effects.
In 2018, recreational marijuana is legal in nine states and medical marijuana is legal in 30 states. But many of those medical marijuana states have such overbearing restrictions that a breast cancer patient would not even be eligible under their programs, or the oil available is not ideal for the patient’s situation.
The problem with cannabis oil is that it often comes from suspect sources as its production and sale is still highly illegal in most of the country. If a patient doesn’t know the exact ratio of cannabinoids and even terpenes in their oil, it is nearly impossible to properly dose.
For example, with CBD.
There are studies that show that cannabis-derived CBD inhibits Id-1, a gene that “triggers the metastatic process responsible for spreading cells from the original breast tumor to other parts of the body such as the brain and lungs”. The experiments in this particular study were performed on cultured cells in a lab environment, so it still needs animal model research to determine the usefulness of CBD when treating breast cancer.
This study is backed by hundreds, if not thousands, of purely anecdotal stories about breast cancer patients self-treating with homemade or store-bought CBD salves, tinctures, oils, and suppositories, and halting the spread of their disease. But there are so many snake-oil CBD products on the market these days that it is overwhelming for the average consumer to keep up.
Preclinical trials are showing very promising results when it comes to fighting breast cancer with cannabis when it is used the right way. Fortunately for those who reside in more cannabis-friendly states, talking with your doctor about medical marijuana is easier than ever, and we always suggest having that conversation if you can.
But, to answer the question: Does cannabis cure breast cancer?
Not always, but in our opinion it is always worth a shot.
Be sure to check out these other highly educational articles
from the crew at Beard Bros. Pharms