Study Summary: Cannabis for Breast Cancer

Updated: Oct 8

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An October 2021 peer-reviewed research study entitled "A Cannabis Survey Study of Breast Cancer Patients' Use of Cannabis Before, During, and After Treatment" that was published in the journal Cancer investigated the reasons that some breast cancer patients use cannabis and their perceived benefits from it.

"The goal of this study was to characterize cannabis use among patients with breast cancer, including their reasons for and timing of use, their sources of cannabis information and products, their satisfaction with the information found, their perceptions of its safety, and their dialogue about cannabis with their physicians," reported the study's authors.


Understanding Breast Cancer

According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, "after skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States." The famous clinic explained that breast cancer "can occur in both men and women, but is far more common in women."


"Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women. In 2022, it's estimated that about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers."

According to Breastcancer.org, the disease "is always caused by a genetic abnormality (a 'mistake' in the genetic material)." However, the organization noted that only "5-10 percent of cancers are due to an abnormality inherited from your mother or father. Instead, 85-90 percent of breast cancers are due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and the 'wear and tear' of life in general."


Breast Cancer Statistics

Breastcancer.org publishes current statistics regarding breast cancer in the United States. These metrics include the following:

  • 43,250 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2022 from breast cancer.

  • Death rates have been steady in women under 50 since 2007, but have continued to drop in women over 50.

  • The overall death rate from breast cancer decreased by 1 percent per year from 2013 to 2018.

  • For women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer.

  • As of January 2022, there are more than 3.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S.

  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women.

  • In 2022, it's estimated that about 30 percent of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be breast cancers.

  • Breast cancer became the most common cancer globally in 2021, accounting for 12 percent of all new annual cancer cases worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

  • In women under 45, breast cancer is more common in Black women than white women.

  • A woman's risk of breast cancer nearly doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

  • Less than 15 percent of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.

The Study

The design of this research was that of a self-reported and anonymous online survey involving 612 participants who were U.S.-based members of the BreastCancer.org and Healthline.com communities "with a self-reported diagnosis of breast cancer within five years."


Results

Slightly fewer than half of study participants (42 percent) employed cannabis "for relief of symptoms." Of these cannabis consumers, the following percentages used cannabis for particular symptoms:

  • Anxiety (57 percent)

  • Insomnia (70 percent)

  • Nausea/vomiting (46 percent)

  • Pain (78 percent)

  • Stress (51 percent)

In addition, 49 percent of the cannabis user group "believed that medical cannabis could be used to treat cancer itself." Seventy-nine percent of cannabis users "had used it during treatment, which included systemic therapies, radiation, and surgery." Despite this, only 39 percent had discussed their cannabis usage with their primary care physicians.


"Forty-nine percent of the cannabis user group "believed that medical cannabis could be used to treat cancer itself."


Conclusions

The study found that of participants who used cannabis for their breast cancer, most used it during "active cancer treatment despite the potential for an adverse event during this vulnerable time." Most participants perceived their cannabis use to be safe. Most also were "unaware that product quality varied widely and depended on the source."


"The study found that of participants who used cannabis for their breast cancer, most used it during active cancer treatment."

This study echoed a January 2021 study that investigated the relationship between cannabis patients and their healthcare providers, including how often patients reported their marijuana use to their primary care physicians and other wellness practitioners and caregivers.


View the original study.


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