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Managing your Weight after Cancer

Posted 2/10/2014

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  This is either a very popular or the least popular topic. It is something that most of us think about and struggle with and rarely have ideal strategies or outcomes. We intellectually understand that virtually all women weigh more at 50 than they did at 25, but having the pounds accompany breast cancer treatment seems especially difficult. Many women have laughingly told me that they assumed that some weight loss would be the one good thing about going through treatment. Wrong. As you know, almost all women gain a little weight on chemotherapy and/or hormonal treatment.

  There are lots of reasons why this matters. There is some evidence that holding weight stable reduces the recurrence rate. There is lots of evidence that a normal stable weight is healthy in many other ways: cardiac risk, diabetes risk, hypertension risk--these and more are higher in obese people. Then there are all the body image parts, and we all want to look and feel our best, especially now.

  This is an excellent interview with Dr. Suzanne Dixon about these concerns. From Living Beyond Breast Cancer, I give you the start and a link. You can read it online, download it, or listen to it as a podcast.

January 2014 Ask the Expert:
Managing Your Weight After Breast Cancer
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MD, RD

Question: What is the likelihood of weight gain with the chemotherapy combination ACT? What about with chemo in general?
Ms. Dixon: There is no good way to estimate exactly how likely any particular woman is to gain weight during chemotherapy, and weight gain is not listed among the specific side effects for these three medications (Adriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxol). However, some women do gain weight after a breast cancer diagnosis. Beyond weight gain, there are a few things you can do to lessen the likelihood of all of the side effects of
ACT. This includes:
• Increasing fluid intake, especially in the 24 hours after receiving Cytoxan
• Practicing good mouth care using alcohol-free mouth care products, and avoiding irritating foods, such as citrus, coffee and alcohol
• Avoiding sun exposure, and wearing protective clothing and sunscreen (at least SPF 15) if sun exposure is unavoidable.
For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, about half of women undergoing breast cancer treatment gain weight. Often, this is just a few pounds, but some women can experience significant weight gain of 20, 30 or 40 pounds or more.
Even though health experts don’t fully understand why weight gain occurs during chemotherapy, there are some factors that seem to contribute to the likelihood of gaining weight.


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