October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
*Produced in partnership with MMJ Knowledge, LLC
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The goal of this yearly campaign is to increase awareness of the disease, promoting early detection and early treatment so that lives can be saved.
This year alone, over 276,000 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It is the second most common form of cancer in women, with skin cancer being the first.
The average risk of a woman developing breast cancer in the U.S. is 13%, with one out of every eight women developing the disease at some point in their lifetime. On average, a woman in the United States receives a breast cancer diagnosis every 2 minutes.
While we generally think of breast cancer as a disease that only affects women, people are often surprised to learn that men are diagnosed with breast cancer too. Both men and women have breast cells and tissue, and although it is rare, men can develop breast cancer.
In fact, nearly 1 in every 1,000 men will also be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their life. Men generally detect a hard lump under the nipple on their own but are less likely to assume that it’s breast cancer, thereby delaying both diagnosis and treatment.
Male breast cancer generally exhibits the same symptoms as in women, which is why anyone who notices anything unusual or irregular in their breasts should seek immediate consultation with a qualified cancer care physician.
Breast Cancer Facts:
Age - The risk of developing breast cancer increases with age. Most breast cancers occur in women and men aged 50 & over. It's important to remember that younger people can develop breast cancer, so the disease's signs and indicators should never be ignored.
Family History - About 5-10% of breast cancers are inherited. If someone has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter, father, brother, or son) with a history of breast cancer, they carry a higher risk for the disease.
Personal History - Individuals who have had breast cancer once are more likely to have a repeated occurrence of breast cancer.
Reproductive history - Girls who started their menstrual cycle before age 12 and women starting menopause after age 55 are also at a higher risk (likely because they are exposed to hormones over a more extended period).
Childbirth - Women who have never given birth and those who had their first child after 30 are at a slightly increased risk.
Race – While white women and women of color get cancer at approximately the same rate, women of color are more likely to die due to the disease. Some studies indicate that this is due to disproportionate access to qualified care and treatment options.
Risk Factors We Can Change:
Physical activity - Staying physically active can reduce the risk of getting breast cancer.
Weight management - Keeping a healthy weight - Older women who are overweight have a higher risk of getting breast cancer than those who keep their weight within suggested ranges.
Taking hormones - Women who take a combination of estrogen and progesterone during menopause, for a period of longer than five years, are at a higher risk than women who don't. Additionally, certain birth control pills have also been found to raise breast cancer risk.
Childbirth - Women who have never given birth, those who had their first child after 30, and those who have never breastfed are at a slightly increased risk.
Drinking alcohol - Women who are heavy drinkers have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Racial Inequity in care - Expanding care to underserved areas and populations need to be prioritized. Partnering with and supporting organizations, such as Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation, is crucial in achieving this critical goal.
Research suggests other factors correlated with higher breast cancer rates include: Smoking, exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, and other hormonal changes.
Medical Cannabis and Breast Cancer:
Because medical cannabis is still illegal under federal law, research into cancer patients' medicinal benefits is minimal. What we do know is that people have used cannabis to effectively manage the side effects of traditional cancer treatments for decades.
The breastcancer.org community discusses the benefits of medical cannabis on their website, stating:
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that marijuana may ease:
loss of appetite
caused by a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
Virginia F. Borges, M.D. is a Professor of Medicine and Director of the Breast Cancer Research Program at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. She specializes in treating young women diagnosed with breast cancer.
Dr. Borges is a proponent of using medical cannabis in breast cancer care, saying: "I've mainly seen it used in conjunction with prescription drugs to control pain and other side effects in patients living with metastatic disease. A person living with metastatic breast cancer would rarely have only one side effect to manage. So, adding in medical marijuana, it often allows me to cut back on the number of drugs I prescribe. With a high-quality source for medical marijuana and knowing how it affects an individual, using medical marijuana can put more control back in the hands of my patient."
She goes on to say: “Many of the prescription drugs don’t have this flexibility. Any time you can give control back to a person when they're living with cancer, it’s a good thing.”
As with any medication, it’s important to discuss adding medical cannabis to a care regimen. There may be some cancer treatments where cannabis is contra-indicated.
In addition to the physical symptoms and side effects of cancer, it's important to note that cancer patients often experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the months and years following their initial diagnosis.
According to Reuter's Health, 22% of cancer patients reported PTSD symptoms in a clinical evaluation conducted six months following their original diagnosis. Four years following their diagnosis, 6% of patients still met the criteria for PTSD.
These findings are not surprising. Imagine the shock that comes along with being told you have a potentially life-limiting illness, and even with the best possible outcome, the uncertainty of what the road ahead looks like is almost sure to increase worry and anxiety. All of this compounded can understandably lead to a traumatic reaction in cancer patients (and those who love them). With all of these factors, it’s no surprise mental health issues sometimes linger for years.
Cancer and PTSD are both qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in Florida. Patients have a right to choose a plant-derived alternative that can help alleviate not only their symptoms and suffering but also holds the potential to reduce the need for other prescription drugs. Anytime medications that carry long lists of adverse side effects can be reduced or eliminated, it is a "win" for the patient.
The effects of medical cannabis are unique to each individual. Many cancer (and PTSD) patients benefit from a combination of different routes of administration. Patients report benefitting from various products to help them control the side effects of traditional cancer treatments, like chemotherapy & radiation, helping them manage their disease better.
Trulieve offers a wide range of products, including; whole plant flower options, edibles, tinctures, capsules, topicals, and concentrates.
The good news is increased awareness and education saves lives! Death rates from breast cancer have been on the decline since the 1990s. Increased awareness, better screening options, and early detection have had a positive impact on survival rates.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that our choices and actions play a powerful role in protecting those around us, especially the most vulnerable among us. Increased education, coupled with Community support, can positively impact the lives of those who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and their families.
This is one reason why Trulieve has partnered with Libby's Legacy for the past three years. The Mission of Libby’s Legacy Breast Cancer Foundation is to provide comprehensive services to the underserved through education, mammograms, and patient navigation on the journey from diagnosis to survivorship. With compassion, Libby’s Legacy sets out to ensure… no one fights alone.
October Product Highlight:
Strawberry Tangie is a limited edition TruPOD, available for October. A Sativa dominant, pure cannabis oil extract concentrate (with no added cutting ingredients) specially designed to be used with the TruSTIK battery.
Strawberry Tangle offers an energetic "uplift" that many patients enjoy for daytime use.
*A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of the Strawberry Tangie TruPOD will be donated to support Libby's Legacy.
“Breast Cancer”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 14 September, 2020. Date accessed: 8 October, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/basic_info/
“Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know”. Cancer Support Community.
7 October, 2020. Date accessed: 8 October, 2020. https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/blog/breast-cancer-what-you-need-know
Hurlburt, Marc. “Why Black Women Are More Likely to Die of Breast Cancer.” Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 4 October, 2016. https://www.bcrf.org/blog/why-black-women-are-more-likely-die-breast-cancer
“Medical Marijuana”. breastcancer.org. 19 January, 2020. Date accessed: 8 October, 2020. https://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/medical-marijuana
Rappaport, Lisa. “Cancer Survivor’s often Living with PTSD”. Reuter’s Health. 20 November, 2017. Date accessed: 8 October, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cancer-ptsd/cancer-survivors-often-living-with-ptsd-idUSKBN1DK2CV