If you are being treated breast cancer, you probably had some side effects like pain, fatigue, nausea, discomfort and anxiety. You may have heard other people with the disease talk about use CBD products to relieve these symptoms – or you have encountered CBD at a local gas station or pharmacy. But what exactly is CBD? How does it work? And can it really help people who have breast cancer?
First, let’s break down the terms, which can be confusing.
- cannabis is a flowering species that has more than 500 chemicals. Hemp and marijuana are both forms of cannabis.
- tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) perhaps the most famous chemical, known as cannabinoid, is in the cannabis plant. Its psychoactive ingredients create intoxication, or “power”.
- Cannabidiol (CBD) is another well known chemical in cannabis. Although also technically considered psychoactive, CBD is not intoxicating because it affects brain different from THC. CBD derived from hemp is federally legal, but not legal in every state. CBD can also be extracted from marijuana.
- Hemp is any cannabis plant that mainly contains CBD and has a maximum of 0.3% THC. The Agricultural Law from 2018 legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp in the United States.
- Marijuana is any cannabis plant that has more than 0.3% THC, an amount that causes high. It contains different amounts of CBD. Marijuana is not federally legal, and its legality varies from state to state.
How CBD can help
Your body has a natural endocannabinoid system, “a complex network of receptors on cells that regulate your daily bodily functions, such as inflammation, mood and sleep, ”says Marisa C. Weiss, MD, chief physician and founder of Breastcancer.org and director of breast radiation oncology at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, PA.
In addition, it is important to note that there is no evidence that CBD can cure or cure breast cancer on its own.
“As a doctor, I make a distinction between complementary and Alternative medicine”Says Andrea Mathias Schmucki, MD, a patient advocate for the Living Beyond Cancer Breast Hear My Voice advocacy program and a former family physician. She herself is being treated for metastatic breast cancer or cancer that has spread to other parts of her body. “I see CBD as complementary, using it with, not as an alternative to, traditional treatment.”
Before she had a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy, i radiation for breast cancer in 2015, says Mathias Schmucki, she would not advocate much for something like CBD (although she would support the choice of her patients to use it). But ibuprofen did not alleviate the itching, scratching, painful feelings she had. She was so embarrassed, “I was open to everything.” She knew she didn’t need or want mind-altering effects that THC can create, so she decided to give it a try CBD oil.
She bought some at her local pharmacy and took them every day for a month, noticing that she seemed to help on some days. But she wasn’t convinced the changes were due to CBD oil, so she didn’t get any more when it ran out. Within 3 weeks, the terrible discomfort returned. She researched CBD in depth and found a reputable company. She is a believer now. “It has significantly improved my daily quality of life,” she says.
How to use CBD
Mathias Schmucki still takes CBD oil orally. It also uses topical CBD oil for the skin on the radiation-treated side to help with dryness and discomfort, plus CBD extract in a coconut oil-based suspension as a personal lubricant for sexual intercourse. “Many women with breast cancer experience sexual side effects because one of the foundations of treatment is antiestrogen,” she explains.
Side effects and risks
According to Weiss, some people who use CBD have reported side effects including:
Mathias Schmucki notes that there are not many studies on the potential risks of CBD oils, so it is not clear what exactly they could be. However, “CBD is usually well tolerated,” Weiss says.
Weiss offers these precautions:
- Do not use cannabis products if you have had a heart attack in the last 6 months or if you have severe heart disease.
- Some drugs may have a negative interaction with cannabis products, such as warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven). Give your doctor and pharmacist complete list of all medications and supplements you take so you can watch out for interactions.
- Watch out for product ingredients you may be allergic to, e.g. coconut oil.
- It is best to completely stay away from cannabis products if you have previously had serious side effects from their use, such as uncontrolled vomiting.
- Keep in mind that many CBD products may contain traces of THC that may appear on a drug test. Check your employer’s medical cannabis policy before using CBD.
Talk to your doctor
Weiss and Mathias Schmucki agree that it is crucial to talk to your doctor before using CBD, especially if you are on active breast cancer treatment. First of all, you need to make sure that it is a safe option for you.
If you are taking certain medications such as blood thinners and thyroid and attack medications, you will need periodically blood tests to make sure your levels are where they should be. If you are taking these medications and plan to use CBD products, says Mathias Schmucki, your doctor will need to monitor you to make sure your levels stay on track. “Everyone is different, so you won’t actually know how CBD will affect the metabolism of other drugs in your body,” she says.
Your doctor may not be thrilled that you are using CBD, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are resistant to the idea. “Remember that your doctor wants to help manage your symptoms and pain, so being open and honest about what you need is the best way to communicate,” Weiss advises.
If you have side effects from breast cancer treatment or symptoms that are not controlled, or if you think your doctor is not listening to your needs or has no experience giving you advice on CBD products, get second opinion, suggests Weiss. She recommends talking to an oncologist who is well versed in cannabis products if your doctor can’t help you.
“I tell my doctors that I don’t hold them responsible for my decision to use CBD, but I want them to know it’s my choice,” says Mathias Schmucki. “I give them the information they need to provide the best care they can.”
How to buy CBD
What should you look out for if you decide to try CBD products?
- CBD produces medical grade. “Just because CBD products made from hemp are now widely available, you shouldn’t assume they are safe, effective or even legal in the place where you live, as some state laws still consider CBD cannabis illegal,” Weiss says. She recommends looking for medical CBD products because they are “probably a safer option.”
- Certificate of analysis. Weiss recommends that you seek a certificate of analysis (COA) from the company or clinic you use. COA comes from a third-party lab and tells you about the amount of cannabinoids in the product so you know exactly what you’re getting. Some COAs also show levels of potential toxins such as pesticides, arsenic and heavy metals.
For Mathias Schmucki, it was necessary to find a company that provided the COA with all this information. She says there are several online companies that ship it with each product. “Companies with the best reputation will often have very robust websites with educational resources,” she says, so look for them.
Mathias Schmucki says other options, such as how CBD is extracted or which is the best delivery method, are a matter of personal choice.
Keep this in mind, too: “Everyone reacts differently to cannabis products, so don’t be discouraged if your symptoms don’t subside with the first product you try,” says Weiss. “You may need to test different products to find what works best for you, including delivery method and dosage.” She suggests that you start low and slow, making changes as you go.
“There’s a lot of information, but I think you really have to be careful where you get that information,” says Mathias Schmucki. She advises that you check to see if your local medical center has an integrative oncology department that includes non-traditional therapies like CBD and can give you guidance. Other good resources include cannabis-trained pharmacists, experts in cannabis medical clinics and pain doctors, Weiss says.
Mathias Schmucki also found that talking to other people who currently have or have previously had breast cancer is invaluable. A private Facebook group called Fighting Breast Cancer with Cannabis was helpful on her own journey.
The future of CBD
“Research into medical cannabis products, including CBD oil, is limited because federal laws in the United States have made it difficult to study,” says Weiss. But now that hemp production is legal, it can be studied, notes Mathias Schmucki. “Abolishing federal regulations from the cultivation and scientific study of cannabis plants over time will help answer some of these questions about areas such as safety, dosing and contraindications,” she says.
“Meanwhile, more research is being done to get better answers,” Weiss says. For example, she is the principal investigator on a research team at Lankenau Medical Center that tests CBD in cancer patients with chemotherapy. peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). This is the first and only FDA-approved CBD study for patients with CIPN, “a common and severe side effect of commonly used chemotherapy, which can damage nerves and lead to pain, discomfort or numbness, most commonly in the hands and feet,” he explains. she.