NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE
The month of October is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness. A woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every 2 minutes in the United States, making it the the most common cancer in women behind skin cancer. Breast cancer awareness is an important step in saving hundreds of thousands lives. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990, with help of “better screenings, early detection, increased awareness, and continually improving treatment options.”
But while early detection and treatment options are improving, breast cancer still impacts the lives of millions. While cannabis is not a cure for breast cancer, cannabis can help with pain management, anxiety and stress, insomnia, and the management of chemotherapy symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. The National Cancer Institute even promotes cannabis use for cancer patients, stating that cannabis can help patients with reducing nausea, increasing appetite, relieving pain, and improving sleep.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers found that 75% of survey participants found cannabis use to either be “very” or “extremely” helpful in managing their cancer treatments and symptoms. This is a huge win for patients, especially for those in states where medical marijuana is accessible.
If you or a loved one is using cannabis to help manage breast cancer pain, inflammation, loss of appetite, and more, we want to encourage you to find the right modality. According to BreastCancer.org, the way a person consumes cannabis can impact the effects of the medicine. From knowing how long it takes for certain modalities to provide relief to how particular modalities, such as smoking and inhaling, can influence one’s lungs or immune system, it is important for all medical cannabis patients to figure out the best modality for them.
Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder of BreastCancer.org, wants patients to know all of the benefits and risks of cannabis as they explore cannabis as an option: “For example, a helpful effect is when cannabis reduces nausea from chemotherapy. But a harmful effect can happen if cannabis interferes with the benefit of chemotherapy or increases the risk of lung damage during radiation and chemotherapy if cannabis is smoked or vaped.”
MODALITY CAN MATTER
According to the National Cancer Institute’s data-driven research, when cannabis is consumed orally, benefits can take longer to go into effect, sometimes ranging from 1 to 6 hours, but effects can last much longer than inhalation. When cannabis is inhaled, effects can be felt after just a couple minutes, but effects can rapidly decline after about 30 minutes, whereas cannabis that is consumed orally can have effects that lasts for several hours.
Regardless of the type of modality you choose, cannabis—study after study—has been proven to help cancer patients. The National Cancer Institute reports on several studies where cannabis has significant statistical evidence of providing relief to those undergoing cancer treatment.
The institute offers an example of a study conducted on 2,970 cancer patients who used cannabis regularly over a six-month period. Before using cannabis, these patients reported symptoms of nausea and vomiting (91%), difficultly sleeping (87.5%), restlessness (87.5%), anxiety and depression (84.2%), pruritus—or severe itching—(82.1%), and headaches (81%). The study found that “significant symptomatic improvements were noted,” ranging from 38.4%-56.2% of patients reporting each symptom. Further, before treatment, these researchers report that about 53% of their patients had pain scores in the 8 to 10 range, but after taking cannabis for six months, only 4.6% reported pain scores at that high level. In all, cannabis helped these 2,970 patients manage their pain by a significant amount.
Cannabis has not been determined by any prominent medical study to be a cure for cancer. However, cannabis has helped many who are undergoing approved cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. It is a non-addictive aid. It is a reliable medicine. Cannabis, for these patients and their families, can improve the lives of many.
Breast Cancer Awareness month is about education, screening, and support. We are in this together because no one fights alone.
We encourage all Floridians—women, men, and non-binary persons—to practice monthly self-screenings and to learn about early signs. We also encourage you to speak with your doctor about how cannabis can help you or someone you love who is battling breast cancer.
For more information on early detection, support systems, and ongoing breast cancer research, we encourage you to visit the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.
BreastCancer.Org. “Medical Cannabis.” BreastCancer.Org, https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/medical-marijuana. Accessed October 2021.
National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” National Breast Cancer, https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts. Accessed October 2021.
National Cancer Institute. “Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ)-Health Professional Version.” National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/hp/cannabis-pdq. Accessed October 2021.
Weiss, Marisa C., et al. “A Survey of Cannabis Use for Symptom Palliation in Breast Cancer Patients by Age and Stage.” Journal of Clinical Oncology, vol. 38, no. 15. 2020. https://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2020.38.15_suppl.12108