According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 240,000 women and 2,100 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. Of that number, an estimated 42,000 women and 500 men lose their lives to the disease.
There are many factors that contribute to a person’s diagnosis, including older age, genetic mutations, or having a family history of breast cancer. In order to treat the condition, patients can undergo surgery, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and more, but it depends on the type of treatment and the stage of cancer.
Like with other cancers, people with breast cancer have often found relief from their symptoms by using cannabis. So as Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off, we’re bringing attention to the fact that cannabis can help.
There are many organizations that are helping people get through their breast cancer diagnoses and treatment. While cannabis in itself is not a treatment for the disease, it has been known to help many patients manage their symptoms.
According to Breastcancer.org, a survey they collected showed that 42% of people diagnosed with breast cancer were using medical cannabis to treat the side effects of their treatments. Most participants ranged in age, cancer stages, and treatment phases, and 75% of them said it was “very” or “extremely” helpful.
Cannabis Helping Patients
To help support breast cancer patients, there are many worthwhile organizations to donate money to the cause. Additionally, each year many cannabis businesses are partnering up with these organizations to support these patients and research efforts.
In August, Mint Cannabis in Tempe, Arizona partnered with Check for a Lump to offer free mammograms to locals. During the pandemic, many cancer screenings were canceled and delayed, which caused more than 80,000 people to miss their cancer diagnoses.
This year, Clovr Cannabis in Missouri recently began a “Bonbons for Boobies” campaign, featuring limited time pink raspberry caramel chocolates. “Satisfy your sweet tooth while making a difference! Benefits go toward Breast Cancer Patients and will be donated to @BraCoutureKC. Our Bonbons for Boobies are Raspberry Caramel in White Chocolate and here to spread love and support during #BreastCancerAwarenessMonth!” the brand wrote on social media.
Verano is a multi-state operator spread across Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. On Sept. 29, the company announced the launch of its 3rd annual breast cancer support campaign as well, which benefits the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation. Throughout the entire month of October, the company will hold numerous fundraising opportunities to collect funds for patients. “As one of the leading organizations in its field, Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Foundation conducts critical research, education and prevention, and we’re thrilled to offer our support for a third year in a row,” Verano Founder and Chief Executive Officer, George Archos, said. “We are proud to once again demonstrate the power of the cannabis community as a catalyst for positive change by uniting our team, patients and customers together to continue the fight against breast cancer throughout October and beyond.”
Tilt Holdings, which owns the Jupiter vape brand, also announced its partnership with the PA Breast Cancer Coalition for the month of October. Its subsidiary, Standard Farms, is offering a $5 donation for every Jupiter™ Pink Ceramic Mouth Tip cartridge sold. “Patient-centered care is paramount at Standard Farms,” said TILT CEO Tim Conder. “We know so many medical cannabis patients bravely battling this disease with the support of their families, friends and communities, and we are proud to be part of a larger support network in the state by helping to raise money for PA Breast Cancer Coalition.”
The Florida-based CBD company, Sunmed, also announced a partnership with the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (NBCF). They’ve pledged to donate 3% of online product sales between Oct. 1-31 to NBCF, which will be used for early detection services, education, and support. They are also donating $1 for specific products purchased in-store as well. “We are incredibly proud to stand alongside the National Breast Cancer Foundation in the fight against breast cancer,” said Sunmed CEO Marcus Quinn. “This partnership represents a milestone for not only Sunmed but the entire CBD industry. By combining our community resources, expertise, and passion, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of those affected by breast cancer.”
The respected Rhode Island-based cultivator and solventless extraction artist CMS Gardens just announced a “Doobies For Boobies” campaign in partnership with Advanced Nutrients and Hangar 420. This month, they will be donating a percentage of proceeds to the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free programs and support services to breast cancer patients, survivors and their families.
These are just a few companies making moves to help patients, but there are many more who will announce their promotions and partnerships with other breast cancer organizations as the month progresses.
It’s All About the Evidence
Breastcancer.org founder and chief medical officer, Marisa C. Weiss, spoke about how cannabis works for patients back in a 2020 interview with Healio. “People who receive cancer treatment, especially people with breast cancer, end up going through a variety of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapies and estrogen therapies, which can all go on for years,” Weiss said, noting that common symptoms include pain, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and vomiting.
“A common symptom people struggle with is peripheral neuropathy after chemotherapy,” Weiss explained. “In some patients, the pain and discomfort from this means they can’t even wear a regular shoe or stand on their feet for extended periods of time. Or, for those whose hands were affected, they cannot button a shirt or open a jar of peanut butter to make sandwiches for their kid’s lunch. The throbbing ‘pins and needles’ pain make each day a struggle and can also wake people up in the night.”
Weiss mentioned a relative study that was ongoing at the time, but results were published in October 2021. It found that many people were using cannabis to treat breast cancer specifically, but many participants did not feel comfortable telling their doctor about their cannabis consumption.
In May this year, researchers published a study in the journal BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care that showed evidence of pain reduction in patients of genitourinary, breast, and bowel cancer.
Research on the benefits of medical cannabis use during breast cancer treatments has continued to increase. Just recently on Sept. 27, researchers at the UF Health Center and University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center received a five-year, $3.2 million U01 award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study medical cannabis benefits and harms.
According to Dejana Braithwaite, associate director for cancer population sciences at the UF Health Cancer Center, this could lead to a better understanding of patient’s use of medical cannabis. “As many as 40% of U.S. cancer patients use medical marijuana to manage cancer-related symptoms, yet we know very little about its effects during and after cancer treatments,” Braithwaite said. “This innovative study is an ambitious effort to provide answers to pressing questions about medical marijuana and cancer. It will help doctors address questions about the effects of medical marijuana among cancer patients of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as shed light on the benefits and harms of medical marijuana.”
The research team will analyze 600 breast cancer patients before and after their treatment, and hypothesize that medical cannabis can help patients “by targeting and modulating the inflammasome/inflammatory pathway.”