Managing Symptoms: Weight Gain

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The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: January 13, 2002

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Weight Gain in Breast Cancer Patients

Will my weight change as a result of my breast cancer treatment?
Some breast cancer patients find that their weight does not change during treatment, while others find that they gain weight. This is typically due to certain medications, hormone treatment, lack of activity, or a particular type of chemotherapy that is being used. These treatments can increase appetite and fluid retention.

What can I do to avoid weight gain?
Talk to your doctor about the chances of possible weight gain. A low-fat, calorie controlled diet is generally recommended for many breast cancer patients. Some general tips include:

  • " Emphasize fruits, vegetables, as well as whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • " Eat lean meats, such as lean beef, no pork, and chicken without the skin. Fish is naturally low in fat.
  • " Use low-fat dairy products (skim milk, fat free yogurt).
  • " Chose low-fat, cooking methods, such as broiling, braising and steaming.
  • " Avoid snacking on high-calorie foods. Choose fruits and vegetables which are high in fiber and have no fat.
  • " Do not add fat, salt, or sugar to your food.
  • " If you feel well enough, include some exercise to help maintain muscle.

Setting realistic goals in light of your treatment program and overall sense of well-being is probably the most important thing you can do for yourself.

What should I do if I notice a significant weight gain?
Let your doctor know so that you can find out what is causing the change. Sometimes, the drugs you are taking cause your body to hold excess fluid, which may cause weight gain. In such cases, you may be advised to reduce your salt intake and to take a diuretic which can help your body get rid of the water. Together you can decide on a weight control strategy that is right for you.

Should I take vitamins?
A well-balanced diet should provide your daily vitamin and mineral needs. However, your treatments and the stress from treatments could increase those needs. A multi-vitamin that provides the Recommended Daily Allowances is a good idea. Not all vitamins are alike, however, so it's a good idea to talk to your doctor, nurse or nutritionist about which vitamins you are taking to ensure that they won't have a negative health impact.

Can I get help?
Yes. The Cancer Center's nutrition counselors can help you develop a diet that is healthy and appropriate for you. They can also meet with you throughout your treatment to discuss adjustments to your diet so that you can reach or maintain your desired weight and nutrition goals. The nutrition counselor can provide information and advice on different diet plans, vitamins, and herbal therapies you may have heard about or are considering. We also have periodic seminars on nutrition for our patients and families. Call 215-615-0538 for information or to schedule an appointment.


News
AHA: Even With Weight Gain, Quitting Smoking Better Choice

Nov 19, 2014 - Fear of unhealthy weight gain can be a factor holding smokers back from quitting the habit. But a new study finds that even if people do gain a few pounds once they quit, their post-cigarette health is still much better than if they'd kept on smoking. The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association, held from Nov. 15 to 19 in Chicago.



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