Weight gain from cancer treatment is a dirty little secret. Most people imagine that weight loss would accompany chemotherapy, and that is sometimes true--but often is not. There are a lot of suspected reasons, and it likely is a complicated combination: nibbling more and taking in additional calories as one usually feels better with something in the stomach (or, to be clear, you feel worse if your stomach is empty), reduced exercise, and a change in metabolism.
It is horrifying for many people to go through the months of chemo, losing hair, feeling not so great, worrying about the future, AND gaining 10 or so pounds. To make it worse: those pounds usually turn out to be very hard to lose. I surely remember the days, in my 20s and 30s, when I could give up dessert for a week and immediately drop five pounds. Now it is a victory to hold steady, and I have learned to accept my changed body with the slightly higher number on the scale.
This is an article from BreastCancer.org about this. Although it is breast cancer focused, it applies to most other kinds of cancer treatment, too. I suspect that more attention has been paid to weight gain for breast cancer patients because there are so many of us, and because weight is such a big issue for women anyway.
If you are near Boston and struggling with post treatment weight, consider joining our monthly group. Led by Lauren Fay, our terrific dietician, and me, we talk about different kinds of exercise, mindful eating, portions, good choices, and give each other a lot of support. Contact me for more information.
Here is the start and a link to the article:
Women Who’ve Been Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
More Likely to Gain Weight Than Women Who Haven’t Been Diagnosed
The idea that women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and gone through treatment tend to gain weight has been hinted at by research and talked about extensively on the Breastcancer.org Discussion Boards.
The shock of a diagnosis, the disruption of your life, getting through and beyond surgery and radiation, the strain of relationships at home and at work, financial stress, and less physical activity all may contribute to weight gain. During chemotherapy, extra fluids and steroids together with less physical activity and a yearning for sweets all may lead to weight gain in many women. Other women find that starting hormonal therapy, such as tamoxifen or an aromatase inhibitor, leads to weight gain.
Still, doctors weren’t sure if any weight gain was related to menopause and the aging process (since many breast cancers are diagnosed near menopause) or if there were something about being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer that made women more likely to gain weight.
Women who are overweight have a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer compared to women who maintain a healthy weight, especially after menopause. Being overweight also can increase the risk of breast cancer coming back (recurrence) in women who’ve been diagnosed.
By comparing a group of women at high risk for breast cancer who were diagnosed and treated for breast cancer with a very similar group of high-risk women who were not diagnosed, researchers found that the diagnosed women gained more weight over 4 years than the women who weren’t diagnosed.