Breast cancer awareness month is a great thing. Early this month I had a chance to attend the Be Brave and Fight Like a Girl Party hosted by Heal In Comfort founded by breast cancer survivor Cherie Mathews. The point of the fundraiser was to raise money to provide post operative shirts to people after a mastectomy. The night was filled with laughter, celebration, camaraderie and inspiration. I was amazed at the number of brave women who we willing to stand up and tell their personal story. And, the number of people who I met that had experience using cannabis for breast cancer.
We applaud all of those who are fighting the brave and good fight against breast cancer, the friends and family who support them and all the people working to raise awareness for early detection. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., breast cancer is the second leading cause among women behind heart disease. Other haunting facts include:
- 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime
- 220,000 women are diagnosed annually
- 40,000 will die from it annually
- 2,150 men will be diagnosed and 410 will die from it
The good news is the rate of breast cancer is declining as is the number of associated deaths. The reduction in breast cancer seems to correlate with the decline in synthetic hormone replacement. The decrease in deaths is also associated with reduced rates of breast cancer and early detection.
Those who are diagnosed are faced with a lumpectomy (removal of the tumor), mastectomy (removal of the breast), chemotherapy, and/or radiation. None, of which are very pleasant. At the Be Brave and Fight Like a Girl party, I was amazed at the number of people who confided in me that they might not have made it through chemo without cannabis.
Cannabis for Breast Cancer
Cannabis is a girl’s best friend, and a guy’s too! Regardless of how one chooses to move forward with fighting cancer, cannabis can help. One of the categories of pharmacologically active components of the plant is called cannabinoids. There are over 70 cannabinoids that occur in cannabis plants but only a handful are really being studied. Leading the way are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis, and cannabidiol (CBD) a non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Both have anti-cancer effects and are proven anti-emetics (prevents nausea and vomiting). Cannabis also helps the patient sleep which is critically important to healing. It reduces pain, depression and anxiety and stimulates the appetite. Well-known oncologist and cannabis researcher, Dr. Donald Abrams, says that he can prescribe 5 different medications to his cancer patients or he can prescribe cannabis. Cannabis is most commonly inhaled via a joint, bong, pipe or vaporizer (safest inhalation option). It can also be ingested in the form of the prescription drug Marinol that comes in a pill form or some sort of a food like brownies or pasta made with cannabis butter. These options are highly effective for managing symptoms associated with the side effects of cancer treatment.
There is mounting science, however, that indicates cannabis may also be effective as a treatment against cancer not only helping manage symptoms associated with treatment, but to change the progression of the disease. In the lab, components of the cannabis plant have been proven to kill breast cancer cell cultures. No clinical trials have been performed on humans with breast cancer yet, but this is a good beginning. It is not yet clear exactly how cannabinoids work against cancer. Some of the possibilities include directly inducing cell death, reducing cell proliferation, the prevention of angiogenesis (the creation of new blood vessels required for tumor growth) and most likely a combination of all of the above. Remarkably, cannabinoids target cancerous cells not healthy cells. The anti-proliferative effect of cannabinoids on cancerous cells was first reported in 1975. Little was done with this information for over twenty years. Thankfully, interest is growing in the research community.
However, droves of people are not waiting for the research to come in. They are making their own highly concentrated forms of cannabis medicine known as cannabis oil. While I believe strongly in the power of the cannabis plant to heal the human body, it is important to be aware of the challenges when using cannabis to alter disease progression. The two biggest of which is a) understanding dosing and b) knowing what you have. Not all cannabis plants are the same. Each plant’s chemistry is as different as each human being’s unique chemistry. While no one really knows for sure, many people speculate that some types of cancer are going to be treated more successfully with cannabis than others. And varying ratios of the components from the cannabis plant may be more effective than others and some are going to be better for one cancer versus another. Simply put, we don’t really know what doses are needed to kill cancer. On the flip side a well respected physician recently told me, “Do not let perfect be the enemy of good.” In a perfect world, cannabis would be available at your pharmacy or in your backyard. Chemical analysis of your plant material would be affordable and guidelines for dosing would be well established. But this is not a perfect world. Thus, we do the best we can with what we know and have.
Why Cannabis is SAFE
Regardless of how you choose to integrate cannabis into your treatment it is important to know that the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant mimic important chemicals in your own body that are directly responsible for helping your body maintain homeostasis or balance. These chemicals are part of a system called the endocannabinoid system which regulates, modulates or is somehow involved in every major biological system in the body. When the endocannabinoid system is so stressed that it is unable to bring itself into balance, outside cannabinoids, be they from the cannabis plant or a synthetic cannabinoid (like the prescription drug Marinol), are often effective at supporting the endocannabinoid system in helping bring the body back into balance. Additionally, cannabis has a high safety profile because of its low toxicity and the fact that there are not enough cannabinoid receptors in the part of the brain that control breathing or heart beat to stop the heart or lungs – no one has ever died from over-consumption.
Should you choose to integrate cannabis into your cancer treatment, know that the adverse effects are minimal but may occur. If you experience side effects that are beyond the benefits you are receiving from cannabis, simply discontinue use and the side effects will stop as soon as the cannabis has left your system.
Talking to other breast cancer survivors about their experience with cannabis will be helpful. There is so much we can learn from each other’s experiences.
Support Cannabis Education
Thru 3:00 PM October 28th, we are raising funds to publish our upcoming guide to cannabis for the terminally and chronically ill. Your support of our crowdfunding campaign is greatly appreciated. Please support us at http://rkthb.co/32069
Source: Integrative Oncology by Donald Abrams & Andrew Weil. Chapter 7 pgs 147-170.
This blog was written by Nishi Whiteley marketing consultant and cannabis educator. Learn more at www.MyChronicRelief.com