cbd oil for stage 4 breast cancer

CBD for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, as the name suggests, is a type of cancer that develops in breast cells. Typically, the cancer forms in either the lobules (the glands that produce milk), or the ducts of the breast which are the pathways that bring the milk from the glands to the nipple. However, breast cancer cells can also appear in the fatty tissue as well as the fibrous connective tissue within the breast.

When cancer cells grow uncontrolled, they can often invade other healthy breast tissue, traveling to the lymph nodes under the arms. From there, the cancer cells can move to other parts of the body as the lymph nodes can act as a primary pathway for metastasis.

There are several types of breast cancer that are divided into two main categories: invasive and noninvasive / in situ. When cancer cells have spread from the breast ducts, lobules or tissues to other parts of the breast of body, it is classified as invasive. Noninvasive or in situ cancer has not spread from the original tissue.

Types of Breast Cancer

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive condition. With DCIS, the cancer cells are confined to the ducts in your breast and haven’t invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a cancer that grows in the milk-producing glands of your breast. Like DCIS, the cancer cells haven’t invaded the surrounding tissue.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer begins in your breast’s milk ducts and then invades nearby tissue in the breast. Once the breast cancer has spread to the tissue outside your milk ducts, it can begin to spread to other nearby organs and tissue.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) first develops in your breast’s lobules and has invaded nearby tissue.
  • Angiosarcoma is when the breast cancer grows on the blood vessels or lymph vessels in the breast
  • Triple-negative breast cancer is when a tumor that lacks estrogen and progesterone receptors as well as the HER2 is a protein that fuels breast cancer growth.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is when cells block the lymph nodes near the breast so the lymph vessels in the breast can’t drain properly. Instead of creating a tumor, IBC causes the breast to swell, become red and feel warm, sometimes making the breast appear pitted and thick.
  • Male breast cancer is the same as breast cancer in women with the same symptoms, only much more rare and being 100 times less common.

Stages of Breast Cancer

The five stages of breast cancer depends on various factors, including whether the cancer is invasive or noninvasive, how large the tumor is, whether the lymph nodes are involved and if the cancer has spread to nearby tissue or organs.

Stage 0 is DCIS with cancer cells remain confined to the ducts in the breast and have not spread into nearby tissue.

  • In stage 1A is when the primary tumor is 2 centimeters wide or less and the lymph nodes are not affected;
  • In stage 1B is when the cancer is found in adjacent lymph nodes, and there is either no tumor in the breast, or the tumor is smaller than 2 cm.
  • In stage 2A is when the tumor is smaller than 2 cm and has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes, or is between 2 and 5 cm and hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes;
  • In stage 2B the tumor is between 2 and 5 cm and has spread to one to three axillary (armpit) lymph nodes, or it’s larger than 5 cm and hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes.
  • In stage 3A the cancer has spread to 4 – 9 axillary lymph nodes or has enlarged the internal mammary lymph nodes, with the primary tumor being any size. Or, tumors are greater than 5 cm and the cancer has spread to 1–3 axillary lymph nodes or any breastbone nodes.
  • In stage 3B a tumor has invaded the chest wall or skin and may or may not have invaded up to 9 lymph nodes.
  • In stage 3C the breast cancer is found in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes, lymph nodes near the collarbone, or internal mammary nodes.

Stage 4 is when the primary tumor is of any size and cancer has metastasized and have spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes as well as distant organs.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

  • A breast lump or tissue thickening that feels different from surrounding tissue and has developed recently
  • Breast pain and/or swelling in all or part of the breast
  • Changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts including red, pitted skin over your entire breast often with peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on the nipple or breast
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk or a bloody discharge from your nipple
  • A sudden, unexplained change in the shape or size of your breast
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • A lump or swelling under your arm

Breast Cancer Medications & Treatments

The type of treatment is usually dependent on the type, stage and severity of the breast cancer being treated.

Pharmaceutical / Surgical Interventions
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer along with additional treatments such as chemotherapy. Surgery is designed to remove the breast cancer tissue and can be as non-invasive as simply removing the tumor (lumpectomy), to a full mastectomy in which either one, or both, breasts are removed in their entirety. Chemotherapy is a type of drug treatment that targets and destroy cells with the hope in shrinking the tumor to make surgery less invasive. However, chemotherapy has many unwanted side effects, often destroying healthy cells and the immune symptoms in the process as well.

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions
Radiation therapy and hormone therapy are some non-pharmaceutical treatments often used in conjunction with the above-mentioned interventions. During radiation therapy, high-powered beams of radiation that target and kill cancer cells. Because breast cancer is sensitive to hormones, hormone therapy that blocks the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone can be prescribed to slow or possibly stop tumor growth. Similarly, Herceptin (trastuzumab) can block the production of the HER2 protein that helps breast cancer cell growth.

CBD for Breast Cancer

Research & Scientific Evidence

Cannabidiol (CBD) research has found that it has the potential to have effectively treated and reduce both the development and growth of breast cancer cells in a variety of ways.

In a 2011 in vivo study published in American Association for Cancer Research researchers investigated the effect of cannabinoids like CBD on reducing Id-1 expression in aggressive human breast cancers by using human breast cancer cell lines exposed to serum infused with THC, CBN, CBD, CBG, and CP55,940.

They found that CBD down-regulates Id-1 gene expression at the mRNA and protein level, reducing breast cancer cell invasion and metastasis, making it a low-toxicity and potentially effective treatment option for reducing tumor aggressiveness.

In another 2011 study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics examined the manner in which CBD induces apoptosis (cellular suicide) and autophagy (removing dead and damaged cells) in breast cancer cells using human breast cancer cell lines treated with a CBD-infused medium.

They found that some of the molecular mechanisms with which CBD induces apoptosis and autophagy, including the inhibition of the survival of both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cell lines without having any effect on healthy breast cells. Similarly, CBD induced autophagy is fully cytodestructive by causing endoplasmic reticulum stress, reducing mitochondrial membrane potential and, ultimately, activating the intrinsic apoptotic pathway in breast cancer cells.

In a more recent 2015 study, the researchers investigated the inhibitory properties of CBD on the growth and metastatic properties of breast cancer cell lines using human breast cancer cell lines and exposing it to CBD.

They found that CBD inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion by modulating the signaling pathways responsible for it. They also found that CBD inhibits breast cancer growth, reducing tumor volume and weight both in vitro and in vivo. Similarly CBD also showed to inhibit the metastasis of aggressive breast cancer cells by decreasing the secretion of the enzymes responsible for tissue turnover.

Anecdotal Evidence
The media is full of celebrities like Olivia Newton-John and Melissa Etheridge claiming to use cannabinoids for their breast cancer. In addition, there are other stories of women like Rhonda Gossett who claim CBD oil has helped treat their breast cancer. However, most examples of people who claim to have treated their cancer used cannabis oil.

CBD as a Complementary Treatment

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation produce a variety of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and eventual weight loss while breast cancer surgery and the cancer itself can be painful. CBD has the ability to ease chemotherapy induced pain, nausea and poor appetite resulting from cancer and cancer treatments.

Bottom Line

There is a lot of research focusing on the effects of CBD on breast cancer and the data shows that it has the potential to be an effective, non-toxic treatment that preserves healthy breast tissue. In addition to having several direct interactions on the ability of breast cancer cells to reproduce, grow, proliferate and metastasize, CBD can also help reduce many of the side effects of more traditional treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Always speak to your treating oncologist before using CBD as they can also monitor dosage, symptom severity and other clinical parameters like drug interactions.

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Olivia Newton-John is Using Cannabis Oil for her Breast Cancer—Here’s How It Could Help

When singer and actress Olivia Newton-John announced last month that she had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer—a return of the breast cancer she battled into remission in the 1990s, which has now spread to her back—she said she planned to fight the disease in part with "natural wellness therapies."

While Newton-John didn't specify which natural therapies she would begin using, her daughter, Chloe Rose Lattanzi, did sound off on one of the remedies when she posted this message on Instagram in support of her mom:

“My mom and best friend is going to be fine. She will be using medicine that I often talk about. CBD oil! (Cannabis has scientifically proven properties to inhibit cancer cell growth) and other natural healing remedies plus modern medicine to beat this,” Lattanzi wrote.

So what is CBD oil, also known as cannabis oil, and does it really have cancer-fighting powers? First, the basics: CBD stands for cannabidiol. It's one of several compounds, called cannabinoids, found in cannabis, aka the marijuana plant. Some research shows that certain cannabinoids do have an anti-cancer effect, says Allan Frankel, M.D., a medicinal cannabis expert in Santa Monica, California.

Taken as a spray or capsule or inhaled as a vapor, CBD oil is used to treat either the cancer itself or the side effects of the disease or chemotherapy, says Dr. Frankel. Unlike smoking marijuana, however, Dr. Frankel says CBD oil won't get a person high because it doesn't contain enough of the high-producing cannabinoid known as THC. Not getting high is part of the appeal of CBD oil for many patients, he adds.

But whether cannabis oil really plays a role in fighting cancer or easing cancer side effects is controversial. Human studies are scarce, concedes Dr. Frankel, and he stresses that it shouldn’t take the place of modern medical treatments but instead be a supplement to them.

There's also confusion as to whether CBD oil is legal. The Drug Enforcement Agency appears to classify it as a "controlled substance," and it's not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Frankel says it is legally available in states that have legitimized medicinal or recreational marijuana. Doctors like himself can't prescribe it like a regular drug, but he can direct a patient to a legal dispensary.

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The American Cancer Society (ACS) also takes a cautious stance on cannabis in general. "Data shows that it inhibits growth of cancer cells in petri dishes, and in animal studies, but it's limited data and I can’t recommend it for human use outside of a human clinical trial," Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the ACS, tells Health. "The initial data indicates it should be researched more though."

So while the data looks promising, the jury is officially out. Still, if Newton-John chooses to give CBD oil a try, it's a good idea to know where the product she uses came from. "If you buy something like CBD oil, or any marijuana product from a dispensary or off the street, you don't know what's in it," says Dr. Brawley.

Cannabis and cancer

Every year, nearly 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with some form of cancer. As challenging to treat as it is common to diagnose, cancer can occur anywhere in the body but most often affects the breasts, lungs, and colon.

Medical cannabis has emerged as an alternative treatment option for a number of ailments including Parkinson’s disease and diabetes. Can marijuana help treat a disease as complex as cancer? In this article, we’ll examine the current research on cannabis for cancer and hear what the experts have to say.

An overview of the research

The cannabinoids and other compounds found in cannabis have shown to be potentially beneficial in the treatment of cancerous tumors. Both in vitro (petri dish) and in vivo (animal) studies have demonstrated how medicinal cannabis, including whole-plant extract and hemp, may be useful tools in the battle against cancer.

Studies on cannabis and cancer

One comprehensive 2020 study published in the scientific journal Cancers analyzed the anti-cancer efficacy of different chemical compounds present in cannabis. These included prominent cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as the lesser-known CBG and CBN, in addition to potent flavonoids and terpenes. The researchers concluded that, while cannabis would not likely succeed as a stand-alone therapy, “. many of the compounds present in cannabis could be part of a therapeutic solution for patients living with and beyond cancer.”

While cannabis would not likely succeed as a stand-alone therapy, it could be part of a therapeutic solution for patients living with cancer. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Here are some highlights of the study’s findings:

  • Linalool, a common terpene in cannabis, was found to reduce the viability of oral cancer cells
  • Limonene, another abundant terpene in cannabis, exhibited anti-cancer effects by reducing tumor enlargement and suppressing the growth of bladder and colon cancer cells
  • CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid derived from hemp, inhibited the metastasis of lung cancer cells
  • THC, a psychoactive cannabinoid, decreased the viability of pancreatic cancer cells
  • Dronabinol, a synthetic marijuana-based drug, aided in reducing nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy while also reducing the viability of leukemia cells

Additional 2020 research published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences examined the potential role of cannabinoids in combating melanoma (skin cancer). Researchers considered the results of six in vivo studies before determining that “. cannabinoids, individually or combined, reduced tumor growth” in addition to inducing the death of melanoma cells.

Medical cannabis patients share their stories

Singer Olivia Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013 and has tried several therapies to manage the associated pain. Cannabis medicine is one treatment supplement that has worked well for Newton-John, now 72. She told MedPage Today in 2019, “I really believe cannabis has made a huge difference. If I don’t take the drops, I can feel the pain, so I know it’s working.”

The pain that Newton-John is referring to stems not only from breast cancer but also from a tumor in her sacrum which left her wheelchair-bound and dependent on morphine. Along with marijuana, Newton-John relies on herbs, hormone suppression therapy, and meditation to manage her pain. She cites her use of cannabis oil as a primary factor in weaning off morphine.

At just 23 years old, Cheyann Shaw was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. The Florida native has shared her story on social media and on Healthline in a 2019 article titled, “I Tried Medical Cannabis During Chemo, and Here’s What Happened.” Shaw wrote, “The world often felt like too much, and my anxiety would kick in. But when I took my THC and CBD pills, both the exhaustion (thanks to sleep) and the anxiety would go away.” Now 26 years old, Shaw is still battling cancer after a period of remission.

It should go without saying that any cancer patient who wishes to use medical cannabis as a supplemental treatment should consult with a qualified physician first.

What the experts say about cannabis and cancer

Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist and scientific adviser to Weedmaps, reiterated the importance of cancer patients consulting with their physicians. “Clinical studies are complicated. Although cannabis-using cancer patients typically have better outcomes (overall survival and tumors take longer to develop), cannabis has major interactions with the immune system. Most traditional cancer therapies are immuno-modulators. If a patient is on immunomodulatory medications, cannabis could interfere with their effectiveness. So, it’s very important to discuss cannabis use with the oncologist.”

If a patient is on immunomodulatory medications, cannabis could interfere with their effectiveness. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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Expanding on how medical cannabis could benefit cancer patients, Rae said, “Not all cancers are alike, but many of them do respond to the molecules found in cannabis by one or more key mechanisms (limiting cell size, cell survival, cell proliferation, angiogenesis, metastases, etc).”

In addition, Rae pointed out that medical marijuana can serve as an indirect treatment for the symptoms that cancer patients often experience, which are also symptomatic of many chronic diseases. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep issues
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Chemo-induced problems

Rae said, “Chemotherapy often causes nausea, and cannabis is great for chemo-induced nausea and vomiting. Chemo can also cause neuropathy, which is very painful. Cannabis is good for neuropathic pain.”

Tobacco smoking, and co-smoking tobacco and cannabis is definitely associated with lung cancer, but cannabis smoke alone does not appear to cause lung cancer. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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One question that may concern cancer patients is whether smoking cannabis can cause lung cancer. Vaping has also received a negative reputation in the media, but are the worries based on fact? Rae responded, “Tobacco smoking, and co-smoking tobacco and cannabis is definitely associated with lung cancer, but cannabis smoke alone does not appear to cause lung cancer.”

However, anyone with conditions such as emphysema or chronic bronchitis should refrain from smoking cannabis, regardless of any cancer diagnosis.

The bottom line on cannabis and cancer

Medical cannabis has shown to be a helpful supplemental treatment when it comes to managing cancer-related pain and chemotherapy-induced nausea and improving overall quality of life for some patients. Each cancer diagnosis is unique, and patients should discuss the prospect of medical marijuana with their physicians before beginning a regimen.