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Weight Gain

Some people lose weight during cancer treatment while others gain weight. Slight increases in weight during cancer treatment are generally not a problem. But significant weight gain can affect a person's health.

Weight gain is an especially important health issue for women with breast cancer. More than half of women with breast cancer experience weight gain during treatment. Reports show that weight gain during treatment is linked to a poorer chance of recovery. Being overweight before treatment begins also increases the risk of serious health conditions. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems.

Managing weight gain

Relieving side effects is an important part of cancer care and treatment. This is called palliative care, or supportive care. Talk with your health care team about any symptoms you experience and any change in symptoms.

If weight gain becomes a concern, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian (RD) before starting a diet or changing your eating habits. They can help you find the possible cause and the best way to manage it. An RD can also provide nutritional guidelines or a customized diet plan.

Consider the following ways to address weight gain through diet and physical activity:

  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Limit fat, sugar, and refined flour.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Use healthier cooking methods whenever possible. For example, try steaming instead of frying.
  • Identify everyday eating patterns that lead to overeating and inactivity. Your RD can help you with this.
  • Find physical activities, such as walking or bicycling, that you enjoy. Try strength-building exercises if you have lost muscle. But check with your doctor before starting a new type of exercise or increasing your physical activity.