Do Patients Use Marijuana to Treat Breast Cancer Symptoms?

For many years, cannabis has been widely recognized for its usefulness in treating cancer patients who experience chronic pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. In order for medical marijuana to be useful in helping people with healthcare conditions, the endocannabinoid system has an important role to play. It has been suggested that an endocannabinoid system, which is made up of body-made fat-based neurotransmitters, can be considered as a network of cannabinoid receptor cells. The levels of neurotransmitters in the brain are linked to inflammation, hormones, and the immune system.

The cannabinoids in cannabis, including Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), bind to blood vessels in the brain and bind to receptors on the CB1 and CB2 cells. CB1 receptors are mostly found in the brain, whereas CB2 receptors are commonly found in joints, immune cells, intestinal tissues, and other parts of the body.

If you would like to learn more about the endocannabinoid system, please refer to our page discussing the endocannabinoids on this site.

Treatment of Breast Cancer with Medical Marijuana

Researchers have shown that cannabis plants have the ability to generate antitumor responses, but the majority of these studies used THC isolates as opposed to the entire plant and those phytocannabinoids that are found within.

There are some people who, when undergoing a particular chemotherapy or if they have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, may find that smoking or vaporizing cannabis may not be the best choice for them. For instance, it might help with nausea while taking medical marijuana; however, certain types of chemotherapy may not be compatible with it. During chemotherapy or radiation treatment, it can also raise the risk for lung damage when it is smoked or vaporized.

In order to know what type of interactions cannabinoids may have with certain types of treatments, it’s important to discuss these with your oncologist. There must be regular check-ups and follow-up treatment, but there is no substitute for medical cannabis. In addition to that, your doctor may also be able to connect you with other patients who are utilizing it as a supportive therapy.

In this section, we’ll examine a handful of clinical trials that looked at the anticancer effects of medical marijuana in the treatment of several types of breast cancer. To learn more about hormone receptors and the HER2 protein in particular, as well as cancers that are related to hormone receptors and the HER2 protein, continue to read on. Both factors play an important role in this kind of malignancy.

Treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer using cannabis

A study published in 2019 revealed that the HER2 protein binds specifically to CB2 receptors. A cell’s CB2 receptor is activated by THC when it is injected into it, which breaks down the HER2 binding proteins and inactivates them by means of c-CBL, an E3 ligase. A study looked at biopsies taken from women who have been diagnosed with breast ductal carcinomas.

The Role of Medical Marijuana in Breast Cancer Treatment

According to a study published in 2018 (which also includes triple-positive cancer cells), botanical drug preparations (BDPs) have been found to be more effective than THC alone in killing cancer cells. Cannabis terpenes, used as the active ingredient in the BDP, were combined with one of three estrogen receptor medicines (tamoxifen), HER2-therapy (lapatinib), or Cisplatin, a fast-acting cytotoxic drug. It should be noted that the findings of this study suggest that more research is needed in order to better identify how the entourage effect can be utilized

For more information on the entourage effect, please click here.

Patients with cancer can get cannabis-derived prescriptions

Studies have been conducted on the following medications on cancer patients. It is important to keep in mind that not all of these drugs are available in the United States, But, they are essential research tools that will provide us with an understanding of how medical marijuana can benefit patients. There are many medicines on the market that include synthetic cannabinoids. Listed below are a few examples of prescription medicines that have been tested on patients with cancer:

Dronabinol/Marinol

  • Nausea is associated with chemotherapy or Cancer-related nausea.
  • It’s made with a chemical known as THC.
  • In the form of capsules that are taken orally.
  • In terms of its ability to completely eliminate nausea and vomiting, it has been found to be on the same level as traditional anti-nausea medications.

Nabilone/Cesamet

  • Chemo-related nausea, as well as cancer-related nausea.
  • A synthetic form of THC.
  • In the form of capsules that are taken orally.
  • Controls nausea and vomiting as well as traditional anti-nausea medications.

Nabiximols/Sativex

  • Treats cancer-related nausea and increases appetite in cancer patients.
  • 1:1 CBD to THC ratio is obtained by ethanol extraction.
  • Spray into the mouth through the cheeks.
  • There isn’t enough evidence to use medication for nausea.
  • As a result of the Australian evaluation mentioned above, Nabiximols has been shown to help with the pain associated with cancer and improve sleep as well. It is still in very early stages of the research, and further study needs to be undertaken on a larger scale in order to assess pain rating gains across a large population.
  • It is a CBD medication that is used to treat persistent or chronic pain in people with moderate to severe discomfort. This is even after they have been treated with opioid therapy. In spite of this, it has not yet been approved by the FDA, despite ongoing research.
  • Sativex is the first cannabis-derived medicine in the United States that has been approved for treating cancer symptoms during chemotherapy treatment.

Levonantradol

  • This can only be used in research since it is an experimental analog of Dronabinol. It cannot be purchased as a prescription drug.
  • The evidence for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea is insufficient.
  • It is injected into the muscles.
  • There isn’t enough evidence for nausea and vomiting control.
  • Not enough evidence to suggest that it may be used effectively.

Different Treatment Recommendations for Breast Cancer Patients

The general rule of thumb is that people with cancer should start with lower doses of cannabis and gradually reduce their dosages as needed during their treatment. Cannabis tinctures and vaping solutions are two different types of cannabis products. Depending on the medical marijuana program in your state, what you are able to obtain in your dispensary may differ.

Learn more on how to treat cancer-induced nausea or chemotherapy-induced nausea by visiting our article on nausea. 

Oncologists’ Views on Medical Cannabis

In 2016, a survey was conducted among 400 oncologists to see what they thought about the possibility of providing marijuana to cancer patients. 237 physicians responded to the survey, with 80% of them saying they had discussed medical cannabis with patients and 43% stating that it should be used on a clinical level. Most of these doctors (67%) reported that cannabis could be beneficial in conjunction with traditional pain treatments and that 65% believed that it was either just as effective or even more effective than standard therapies to treat anorexia and cachexia, which is a condition where a person’s body experiences severe weight loss.

According to the study, oncologists encounter discussions about the benefits of medical marijuana on a daily basis. In spite of this, 70% of them are unable to make recommendations regarding its use in clinical situations. It is a sad truth that several major healthcare organizations still do not allow physicians to prescribe medical cannabis as a treatment option.

Breast Cancer: What is It?

Breast cancer is a malignant disease caused by the uncontrolled growth of tumor cells in the breast. Breast cancer, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, refers to any condition in which a breast’s cells grow out of control. Depending on the type of breast cell tumor that has formed, there are different types of this kind of cancer. There are three main elements of what makes up the breast: (1) Lobules (the glands that produce milk), (2) Ducts (the tubes through which milk travels to the nipple), (3) Connective tissue (fibrous and fatty tissue that binds everything together).

Breast cancer usually begins in the ducts or lobules, and it may spread to other organs via the bloodstream or lymphatic vessels. The process by which cancer spreads from one part of the body to another is known as metastasizing.

Breast Cancer Symptoms: What Are They?  

While it is useful to know about the symptoms of breast cancer, one should not become alarmed since many of them can occur in other conditions as well. In addition to this, it’s important to note that although we are all unique, our experiences with breast cancer symptoms will be different due to the various reasons listed below:

  • Lump(s) under the breasts or in the armpits
  • Swelling in the breasts or parts of the breasts
  • Skin irritation of the breasts
  • Dimples on the breasts
  • Nipple redness
  • Flakey skin on the nipple or breast
  • Nipple or breast pain
  • Nipple sinking
  • Abnormal discharge in place of breast milk
  • Breast size and shape changes
  • Pain in any part of the breast

If you experience any of these symptoms, please see a doctor as soon as possible. It is possible that it could be something or benign in nature; in either case, you will be at ease. If you find that you have cancerous cells in your body, hopefully you were able to discover them in time to be treated.

Status of Breast Cancer Hormone Receptors

Typically, breast cancer cells from post-surgical or biopsy samples are analyzed for proteins that bind to estrogen and/or progesterone receptors. This is significant because if tumor cells have these receptors, they can be stimulated by estrogen and/or progesterone, allowing the disease to spread. Different methods of handling these protein receptor types exist.

It’s possible to have any, or all, of the following receptors:

  • ER-positive (ER+) – cancers that have estrogen receptors and are ER+
  • Progesterone-resistant (PR-) – cancers that have progesterone receptors.
  • Hormone receptors positive (HR+) – If the cancer cells have one or both of the above hormone receptors, it will be classified as HR+.
  • Hormone receptor-negative (HR-) – If the tumor cells lack estrogen or progesterone receptors, they are HR-.

What HER2 status means for breast cancer?

The HER2 protein is associated with increased tumor mobility and growth. It activates the development of breast cancer cells and improves their spreading capabilities in general. Excess copies of the gene that produces the HER2 protein account for approximately one fifth of all cases of breast cancer.

If a breast cancer is discovered to be invasive, the biopsy will generally be examined with immunohistochemical stains (IHC) or fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH). HER2-targeting medicines are given for tumors that are HER2 positive. Because metastasis or dissemination can happen after the initial diagnosis.

The following are some of the possible HER2 conditions:

  • HER2-negative – if the IHC result is 0 or 1+, it indicates that the tumor is HER2-negative. These malignancies are resistant to therapies that target HER2.
  • 3+. A HER2-positive diagnosis is confirmed by the presence of 3. This type of cancer responds to drugs that target HER2.
  • Cancer with an equivocal HER2 status is one that has an IHC result of 2+, so the tumor status is unclear and must be clarified using FISH.
  • Triple-Negative Breast Cancer – breast cancer that doesn’t have too much HER2 and doesn’t affect estrogen or progesterone receptors.
  • Triple Positive – Breast tumors that are HER2 positive and have estrogen and progesterone receptors. Hormone medications, as well as those that target HER2, can be used to treat these malignancies.

Detection at an early stage

You should be aware that breast cancer can be reversed if it is detected early. Here are some self-administered breast exams for detecting lumps, bumps, and/or other physical changes that may suggest cancer, but most lumps and bumps are identified as benign (not-harmful) in the following steps:

  1. Examine your breasts in the mirror. Check to see that your shoulders are erect and that your arms are at your side. (a) Unusual size, form, or/and color, as well as (b) uneven forms without swelling or other visible distortion 
  2. Raise your arms above your head while still looking in the mirror. (a) Unusual size, form, or/and color; and (b) uneven shapes with no swelling or other apparent deformation are two things to be on the lookout for.
  3. Raise one arm to shoulder height and use the other hand to massage the breast (the one that has not been lifted). Use your head to squeeze or compress the nipple. Repeat for the other breast. Keep an eye out for: Unusual discharge from one or both of the nipples, such as milky, yellow, or clear fluid and blood)
  4. Lie down and use your right hand to feel the left breast, and your left hand to feel the right. Make small circular motions with a firm and smooth touch. Make sure to give this whole breast thorough attention, which means from top to bottom (about the length of going from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen) and side to side.
  5. To check your breasts while standing in the shower, follow these steps:. Use the same hand movements as in number 4 to examine the entire breast again while standing. Feel for anything unusual that feels lumpy, bumpy, and painful.
  6. Don’t get scared if you discover a lump in your breast after performing a physical examination (such as fluid from the nipples). Only 8 out of every 10 women with lumps in their breasts have malignant neoplasms.

*DigiDrs is not offering this as professional medical advice. Do not attempt to self diagnose, or prescribe treatment based on the information provided in these pages. Consult a physician before making decisions on the treatment of any of these medical conditions.

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