CBD - Promising New Tool to Fight Breast Cancer | cannabisMD

CBD Oil – A Promising New Tool to Fight Breast Cancer

CBD Oil - Is it The Promsing Tool to Fight Breast Cancer?

"Breast Cancer effects 12.5% of females in the United States alone." Image Credit: Pete Bellis on Unsplash

According to statistics, 12.5% of women in the US will develop breast cancer at some point in their life. It is estimated that there will be over three hundred thousand women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017. It’s also mentioned that breast cancer is not a disease that just affects women; 2,500 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in men as well. Furthermore, women are also more likely to die from breast cancer and lung cancer compared to any other. Breast cancer has a hereditary link.

The chances of women suffering from breast cancer doubles if, she has a daughter, mother or sister who already has or had breast cancer. Moreover, breast cancer and gene mutation are believed to be linked too. The chances of breast cancer are more significant if women have BRCA2 or BRCA 1 genes. However, for the majority of the people, the most substantial chances of suffering from breast cancer are being a woman and aging with time.

This article looks into how CBD (cannabidiol/cannabis oil) may be able to treat breast cancer while discussing types, causes, factors, risks and various treatments for breast cancer.

Types of Breast Cancer

Although most people refer to breast cancer as one disease, there are actually different types of breast cancer. Non-invasive breast cancer is also known as DCIS Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). For this kind of breast cancer, cells do not spread to the nearby tissues and are enclosed in the milk ducts. Occasionally, they are also known as precancerous. However, they can develop into invasive breast cancer if not treated. It is important to know that there are different types of invasive breast cancer, and as a result, it means they need to be treated differently.

What distinguishes between various types of invasive breast cancers is their response to estrogen receptors. According to Diseases of the Breast, 5th Edition, “Hormone receptor status shows whether a type of breast cancer needs hormones to grow. A hormone receptor-positive (estrogen and/or progesterone receptor-positive) cancer needs hormones to grow”.

A hormone receptor-negative (estrogen and/or progesterone receptor-negative) cancer does not need hormones to grow. HER2 is a growth protein. Therefore this means patients need to know whether or not their growth protein (HER2) is either negative or positive, as this type of cancer benefits from treatment that targets the HER2 protein.

Invasive breast cancers usually fit into these categories:

Ductal carcinoma is the most common type, making up 50-75% of all breast cancers. In this type of cancer, there is a hard, irregularly-shaped tumor present. This type of cancer can also have DCIS along with it.
Lobular carcinoma is the next most common type, with 5-15% of breast cancers falling into this category. Lobular carcinoma has a firm or hard tumor, and tumors are most often estrogen receptor (ER) negative, and HER2(a growth-promoting protein) negative.
Tubular carcinoma presents with small tumors; sometimes too small to be felt. These tumors are ER positive and HER2 negative.
Mucinous or colloid carcinoma has a soft tumor that frequently cannot be felt. Tumors are most often ER positive and HER2 negative.
Carcinomas with medullary features make up less than 1% of all breast cancers. They present with soft tumors. These tumors are ER negative, PR negative, and HER2 negative. This is sometimes referred to as “triple negative.”
Invasive papillary carcinoma has soft tumors with cells that have a branch-like appearance.

Diagnosing Breast Cancer

Various methods are used to diagnose breast cancer by medical professionals. As far as the outcome of the disease is concerned, diagnosis at an early stage is difficult. The first stage of diagnosis is self-examination of breast and frequently when an abnormality is experienced in the breast; it is the initial sign of breast cancer.

Additionally, doctors carry out breast exams and suggest mammograms on a routine basis to become aware of breast cancer at the initial stage. While self-examination, doctor’s examination or on a mammogram, if an abnormality is felt additional testing would be carried out. MRI or Breast ultrasound is likely to give a better understanding of the tumor. Similarly, a biopsy would be carried out if needed.

A biopsy involves the removal of a small amount of abnormal cells that are examined to see if they are cancerous. These cells can also be tested to determine the type of cancer and the hormone resistance of cancer. This can help in the treatment of different cancers.

Breast Cancer Treatment and Side Effects

Surgery: This is usually the first treatment for breast cancer. Surgeries for breast cancer fall into two categories, lumpectomy or mastectomy. A lumpectomy is the removal of just the tumor and possibly surrounding tissue. A mastectomy is the removal of all the breast tissue. If cancer has spread beyond the milk ducts in the breast, lymph nodes may need to be removed as well.

If a woman has all the breast tissue removed in the mastectomy, she may opt for additional reconstructive surgery. All surgeries have inherent risks, including the risk of anesthesia and infection. Surgery can be hard on a patient who is already suffering debilitating symptoms.

Hemotherapy: This is a systemic treatment, meaning the treatment goes throughout the whole body. Chemotherapy uses a combination of medicines targeted at damaging or destroying the cancer cells. Chemotherapy can be given in early-stage breast cancer to try to eliminate cancerous cells, or it can be given before surgery to shrink the size of the tumor. Chemotherapy can also be used in more advanced stages of breast cancer to slow or stop the progression and spread of the tumors. Many different chemotherapy medications can be used in different combinations depending on the type and stage of breast cancer. Chemotherapy does have side effects for patients. Most patients experience chemotherapy symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Memory loss
  • Hair loss

Radiation therapy: This is a way to target cells that are left after surgery. Because it is targeted at the area of the tumor, the most significant side effects are discomfort to the skin in that area. Most patients have redness and some pain, similar to a sunburn. A few patients have additional side effects, such as chest pain, lung or heart issues, and fatigue.

Hormone therapy: People with hormone receptor (HR) positive breast cancer are given hormone therapy. These hormones decrease the quantity of estrogen in the body and prevent the estrogen responding to cancer cells. However, for negative breast cancer, this hormone therapy is ineffective. There are many types of hormone therapies and many types of side effects. The side effects include nausea, fatigue, vomiting, hot flashes, osteoporosis, weight gain, headache and higher chances of endometrial cancer compared to others.

Treating Breast Cancer with CBD (Cannabidiol)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of nearly 100 cannabinoids (compounds) found in the cannabis or hemp plant. The CBD compound has no mind-altering effect, and in fact can counteract and lessen the “high” produced by another cannabis compound, THC. Currently, researchers are very interested in the medical use of CBD to treat a myriad of conditions.

CBD has been proven in clinical trials to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. It is believed that CBD works by interacting with receptors in the bodies endocannabinoid system. Thus, CBD may have the potential to treat breast cancer

CBD has been the focus of many research studies cited by cancer.gov, aimed at discovering the possibilities of implementing the use of CBD as a cancer treatment. In these studies, CBD has been proven to help cancer patients with symptoms or side effects of other cancer treatments such as

  • Low blood pressure
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeplessness

Even more intriguing, studies have shown that treatment with CBD may treat actual cancer, not just the side effects. Specifically looking at breast cancer, one study reported by ABC News stated that CBD may stop the progress of metastatic breast cancer. The article goes on to explain that Id-1 is a gene that malfunctions and causes metastatic breast cancer cells to grow and spread.

CBD appears to shut off that gene. Dr. Manuel Guzman, stated that “This is the first evidence that a cannabinoid can target the expression of an important breast cancer metastasis gene, giving preliminary insight into the question of whether CBD could be used clinically to treat metastatic breast cancer.” The study did not use human subjects, so results should be considered very preliminary, but promising.

Researchers caution that breast cancer patients should not consider marijuana use for cancer treatment, as there would be no way to get enough CBD strictly through the use of cannabis. Although CBD has had positive results from stopping the progression of breast cancer in the laboratory, other studies have shown that the THC compound in the cannabis plant can cause estrogen positive cancers to spread.

The findings by NCBI examined the link between CBD and strains of TNBC which are triple negative forms of breast cancer cells or in other words, cells whose growth is triggered not because of the hormones. It was found out that CBD positively impacts strains with invasive and aggressive properties as well as migration and growth. They also supported using CBD for treating breast cancer with a focus on using it to treat metastatic and aggressive types of cancer. The above study was conducted on strains of cells found in the laboratory and on the mice too. Additional study is needed with a human subject.

While initial research results are promising, much more research and many more clinical trials are needed. Research is difficult because cannabis is not approvedby the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of cancer, nor for the treatment of symptoms or side effects related to cancer. Two synthetic cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) are approved by the FDA for the treatment of nausea for chemotherapy patients who have not responded to other medications.

Because breast cancer affects so many patients and their families, there is a growing demand for additional options for breast cancer treatment. As more and more research is undertaken in this area breast cancer patients will have access to information that allows them to make the best treatment decisions.

Jonathan Neilly
Jonathan Neilly
Jonathan Neilly is registered with the British Psychological Society, breaking the taboo on mental health issues is one of the driving forces in his life. His background in biomedicine gives him additional understanding of the factors that work together to influence the human condition.

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