Among Canadian women, breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of death from cancer. While breast cancer commonly impacts women, men are also being diagnosed with this type of cancer. It’s estimated that in 2022, 28,600 Canadian women and 270 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
With the recreational legalization of cannabis in Canada in 2018, and the ability to access cannabis medically since 2001, more individuals diagnosed with cancer are turning to cannabis to manage their symptoms and treatment side effects.
Cannabis has shown the potential to regulate some of the more debilitating symptoms of cancer and its treatments like pain, loss of appetite and nausea/vomiting. The potential benefits of using cannabis appear to outweigh the risks in many situations.1
Breast Cancer: An Overview
Breast cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of breast cells that form a malignant tumour in the breast. Usually, breast cancer develops in the cells of the lobules, the milk-producing glands or ducts in the breast. While less common, breast cancer can also develop in the stromal tissues which are the fibrous, fatty tissues found in the breast. Cancer cells, over time, can spread (metastasize) to the underarm lymph nodes which creates a pathway to spread to other parts of the body.2
Less common types of breast cancer can also develop like inflammatory breast cancer, triple-negative breast cancer, Paget disease of the breast and the more rare, soft tissue sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
While breast cancer can be the result of abnormalities inherited from either parent, most cases of breast cancer are caused by genetic abnormalities that occur as a result of aging.
It’s recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, low alcohol consumption, refraining from smoking and regular exercise to reduce one’s risk of developing breast cancer. While these steps may reduce your chance of developing cancer, they cannot completely eliminate the risk.
Breast Cancer In Men
While rare, men can be diagnosed with breast cancer which has the ability to spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body. Almost all breast cancer found in men is ductal carcinoma. Most ductal carcinomas in men are invasive, however, the cancer cells can spread to lymph nodes and other areas of the body.
The risk of developing breast cancer increase with age, with most men being diagnosed over the age of 60.
Breast Cancer Symptoms
In its early stages, breast cancer may not display any signs or symptoms. The most common sign of developing breast cancer may be a lump or growth that is large enough to be detected, or once the cancer has spread, complications with other tissues or organs.3
Firm or hard lumps (different from the rest of the breast) are a common symptom of ductal carcinoma. Lobular carcinoma causes a hardening or thickening of breast tissue and does not form a lump like ductal carcinoma.
Common symptoms of ductal and lobular breast cancer:
- Changes to the size or shape of the breast
- Changes to the nipple
- Discharge from the nipple without squeezing it
- A lump in the armpit
Breast cancers like inflammatory breast cancer and Paget disease of the breast cause different symptoms. The above symptoms can also be the cause of less serious conditions or a cyst, so it’s important to discuss any breast changes with your doctor as soon as they are identified.
How medical cannabis can help treat breast cancer patients
CBD & breast cancer research
A study published in 2022 found that of the 612 breast cancer patients studied, 42% of them used cannabis to relieve breast cancer-related symptoms or the effects of treatment like pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, anxiety and insomnia. Three-quarters of those studied found that cannabis was helpful in alleviating symptoms.4
Research from a 2010 preclinical study demonstrated the efficacy of CBD in metastatic breast cancer. During this study, they found that CBD (cannabidiol) was able to significantly reduce breast cancer cell proliferation and invasion.5
Preclinical lab studies have shown encouraging results with cannabis’s effect on cancer. In certain types of cancer, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) damaged or killed cancer cells or helped block the development of tumours. CBD has also shown similar results in breast cancer cells while having a limited effect on healthy cells.
Medical cannabis to treat breast cancer and associated treatment symptoms
Many individuals with breast cancer are turning to medical cannabis for symptom relief commonly experienced during cancer treatments to treat:
- Pain – can help relieve both chronic and severe pain
- Loss of appetite – certain cannabinoids found in cannabis, including THC, can help increase appetite
- Nausea and vomiting – common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
Apollo Cannabis Clinics can help you with a medical cannabis prescription
It’s important to speak with a healthcare practitioner experienced in prescribing medical cannabis to those diagnosed with breast cancer. Our team of experienced doctors, specialists and nurse practitioners will be able to provide the guidance you need to feel confident in your choice to use medical cannabis as an additional treatment option.
Our patient care specialists will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan geared towards your symptom relief goals.