Having extra weight is associated with an increased risk of cancer development. Cancer treatment itself often affects the body weight, so it is important to be aware of the factors that cause weight gain in order to prevent it and create conditions in the body that destroy cancer cells.
Causes of weight gain during cancer treatment
Many people often gain weight after their treatments, especially patients with hormone related cancers like prostate and breast cancer. Women whose treatment involves inducing menopause are most likely to experience weight gain.
Factors contributing to weight gain while doing a cancer treatment:
- Fatigue is very common among people having chemo and radiation, and can lead to a reduction in less physical activity, which means fewer calories burned.
- Nausea is another common side effect of chemotherapy and radiation, and many people eat frequent snacks to help deal with the nausea.
- Other people eat more when they feel stressed, and having cancer is by itself a very stressful situation that might lead to overeating.
- Hormone changes or medications may cause people to feel hungry or retain water.
- Treatment combining cortisone administration often increases appetite and leads to an increased calorie intake and to weight gain.
- Very often hospitals offering cancer treatments give out leaflets to cancer patients with advice on increasing the intake of sugary and high fat snacks. This often confuses people who want to follow an anticancer diet for helping the body fight cancer and makes it hard for cancer patients and their families choose the right foods and snacks to nourish the body at this critical point in life, ending up eating empty calories with no nutritional value.
What can you do if you have cancer and are worried about your extra weight?
- Assess your weight with your cancer care team.
- Discuss the effect your weight has on your overall health with your medical team and with a dietitian (preferably one that is specialized in cancer issues).
- Ask for help in achieving a healthier weight or in helping you to prevent weight gain during treatment.
- Follow a well-balanced diet and aim to achieve long-term improvements in your dietary habits.
- Add at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activities per week. Staying active will help combat fatigue and control treatment side effects like constipation and nausea.