Breast cancer is one of the most researched and well-funded diseases. The good news is this means that we have a lot of information about breast cancer. Breast cancer is being diagnosed earlier, and survival rates are getting better. Unfortunately, the disease is still way too common and the treatments come with many side effects. Doctors, researchers, and patients are always looking for new and better options for treating breast cancer.
To accurately interpret the research studies about how CBD can be used to treat breast cancer, you need to know some facts about breast cancer.
Fact 1: 1 in 8 women in the United States will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. More than 300,000 new cases of breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in 2017, and 2,500 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in men as well.”
Fact 2: For women in the United States, the rates of death from breast cancer are higher than any other type of cancer except for lung cancer and there are more diagnoses of breast cancer each year than any other cancer except for skin cancer.
Fact 3: Many people believe that breast cancer is hereditary, and while that is partially true, it is not as common as you would think. A woman’s risk of developing breast cancer doubles if a relation is are has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Less than 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member who has been diagnosed. Gene mutation also has a link to breast cancer. For women who have the BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genes, the risk of breast cancer is much higher. For most people, however, the most significant risks for developing breast cancer are being a woman, and growing older.
Fact 4: There are many different types of breast cancer, and they each have different symptoms and different treatments.
Non-invasive breast cancer is referred to as ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). With this type of breast cancer, cells are contained in the milk ducts and have not spread to surrounding tissue. It is sometimes referred to as pre-cancerous, but if there is no treatment, it could develop into invasive breast cancer.
There are multiple types of invasive breast cancer, and they have different characteristics that affect the way they are treated. One of the characteristics that differentiate the different types of invasive breast cancers is their reaction to estrogen receptors.
Breast cancer can be hormone receptor positive or negative, depending on whether it needs progesterone or estrogen hormones to grow. This information is essential because it may help determine if cancer can be treated with hormone therapy. It is also important to know if breast cancer is HER2 positive or negative. HER2 is a type of protein, and again, whether the breast cancer is positive or negative will impact the treatment.
Medical professionals use many different methods to diagnose breast cancer. Making an early diagnosis is critical in the outcome of the disease. The first line of defense against breast cancer is breast self-exam, and often when an irregularity is felt in the breast this is the earliest sign of breast cancer.
Many of the symptoms associated with breast cancer are found on a self-exam. Symptoms include a lump or thick spot that just feels different, a change in the size, shape or appearance of the breast, changes to the skin over the breast, an inverted nipple, scaling or flaking of skin around the nipple or redness or pitting around the nipple.
Doctors also perform breast exams and recommend mammograms on a regular schedule to catch signs of breast cancer early. Breast ultrasound or MRI can give the doctor a better picture of a tumor or abnormality, and if needed, a biopsy will be performed. During the biopsy, a small portion of the abnormal cells are removed and tested to determine whether they are cancerous.
Treatment for breast cancer is determined by what stage the cancer is in, meaning how far advanced the cancer is, as well as by what type the cancer is.
Surgery may remove just the lump, or it may remove the entire breast and surrounding tissue and lymph nodes. All surgery has risks, such as anesthesia and infection. Surgery is hard on the body and may be extra hard for someone who is already suffering.
Chemotherapy is a treatment that is sent through the entire body. A medicine is targeted at the cancer cells, either to reduce the size of the tumor before surgery or in early cases to try to eliminate cancer cells. In the later stages of breast cancer, it is given to slow the progression of the cancer cells. Chemotherapy comes with a lot of well-known side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and hair loss.
Radiation therapyHormone therapy is given to patients with hormone receptor (HR) positive types of breast cancer. The hormones are aimed at reducing estrogen in the body. Hormone therapy does not work on HR-negative breast cancer. Some of the side effects of hormone therapy include fatigue, osteoporosis, nausea, vomiting, headache, hot flashes, weight gain and an increased risk of endometrial cancer.
Multiple studies look at the interaction between cancer and CBD or other cannabinoids. Here are some facts that will help you understand why the medical use of CBD is such a hot topic right now.
If you are unsure about CBD oil, CBD stands for cannabidiol which is a chemical compound which makes up the majority of both the hemp and cannabis plants. These plants are from the same plant family. Although it is the major compound with these plants there said to be around a hundred of these compounds known as cannabinoids with the plants, all with different properties and abilities.
For example, CBD can have anti-inflammatory effects whereas a cannabinoid known as THC can have neurological effects. These effects whether they are positive or negative technically depends on someones desired outcome, but the potential is there for medical use, and it is currently being researched.
A review published by NCBI tested CBD interactions with strains of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) cells or cells that are not driven by hormones. The study concluded that CBD had a positive effect on the growth, migration and invasion properties of aggressive breast cancer strains. Researchers said, “This study advocates the use of CBD in breast cancer patients, especially those with highly aggressive and metastatic cancer cells including TNBC patients.” This study was performed on strains of cells in the laboratory, as well as on mice.
In the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, researchers studied the effect of cannabidiol (CBD) on the protein Id-1, a protein that is believed to be key in regulating metastatic breast cancers. It was found in a rodent study that if Id-1 could be down-regulated, it significantly reduced the aggressiveness of metastatic breast cancer. In this case, CBD did have the ability to down-regulate the Id-1 without affecting the normal breast cells. Researchers concluded, “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 could mean that CBD is therapeutic in treating the most aggressive types of breast cancer without the toxicity of chemotherapy.
A study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics investigated the anti-tumor effects of several cannabinoids, including cannabidiol, cannabigerol, cannabichromene, cannabidiol acid and THC acid. THC was not tested as the goal was to find a cannabinoid that has anti-tumor effects without the psychotropic effects.
This was a laboratory test, not a test on human subjects. Researchers found that “Results obtained in a panel of tumor cell lines indicate that, of the five natural compounds tested, cannabidiol (CBD) is the most potent inhibitor of cancer cell growth with significantly lower potency in noncancer cells.” They went on to say that “Our data support the further testing of cannabidiol and cannabidiol-rich extracts for the potential treatment of cancer.”
This is just a small sample of the many studies that have been done on CBD and breast cancer, and even more, studies have been done for different types of cancer. Initial results are auspicious. The weakness of most of the studies is that no human subjects were used, most studies were done in a laboratory setting with cells only, or with rodent subjects.
There are still questions about how treating with CBD would work in human patients, and there is much more research that needs to be done and many more questions about doses, length of treatment, and method of treatment. But because of the mostly positive results so far, the outlook is optimistic. As with any type of alternative treatment, your doctor should be a partner in any treatment options you consider. Share the research with your medical professional and make an informed decision about your medical care.