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Sharp Health News

Weight gain during cancer treatment

March 22, 2018

Weight gain during cancer treatment

Leer en español

Once a cancer diagnosis is made and treatment begins, some people will find they do not lose weight during treatment as expected, but rather they gain weight. Dr. Marilyn Norton, hematologist and oncologist at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center's Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center explains why.

Why do some people gain weight during cancer treatment?
"Patients with specific cancers, such as breast, prostate or ovarian cancer, may gain weight during treatment because these cancers are hormone-driven. In order to control the cancer, treatment may suppress hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, which can lead to weight gain. This hormonal imbalance can also decrease a person's basic metabolic rate, which also decreases caloric need and results in weight gain as well."

Why is chemotherapy considered a culprit of weight gain?
"Chemotherapy in general tends to make a person feel fatigued and less interested in physical activity. We do encourage our patients to eat something before chemotherapy to help with nausea caused by the treatment, which means our patients are eating more often. Typically, they are eating comfort foods, such as pasta or bread, instead of lean protein or fresh fruit and vegetables."

Can it pose a risk to gain weight during treatment for cancer?
"Weight gain or an increase in fat can put a person at risk for recurrence of certain cancers, such as breast or uterine, which are more hormone-driven."

What can a person do to combat this type of weight gain?
"We know it can be difficult to combat weight gain during cancer treatment, especially when it involves suppressing certain hormones. This is why we remind our patients of the importance of maintaining a healthy diet that is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. Continued physical activity is also very important; walking is a good way to exercise that helps with the cardiovascular system as well."

Sharp HealthCare has registered dietitian nutritionists who specialize in oncology nutrition and are available to meet patients' unique health needs. For more information on Sharp's nutrition counseling program, visit sharp.com.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Marilyn Norton about cancer treatment and weight gain for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at erica.carlson@sharp.com.

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