What Cancer Treatments Can Cause Weight Gain
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, steroid treatment, and hormone treatments can lead to weight gain in different ways.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can lead to weight gain by:
Causing the body to hold on to excess fluid, called edema.
Causing fatigue, making it harder to exercise.
Increasing nausea that improves by eating more food.
Triggering intense food cravings.
Lowering your metabolism. Metabolism is the rate that the body uses energy. When your metabolism is low, you burn less calories, which can make you gain weight.
Causing menopause, which also slows down your metabolism.
Steroid medications. Steroids are prescribed during cancer treatment for several reasons. This type of medication can reduce symptoms of inflammation, such as swelling and pain. They can treat nausea. And they can be used as a treatment for cancer itself, such as for multiple myeloma.
A common side effect of steroids is weight gain. Steroids can lead to weight gain by:
Increasing your appetite and making you eat more.
Increasing fat tissue in the abdomen, neck, face, or other areas with long-term use.
Question: Could You Please Explain Why It Is So Difficult To Lose Weight After Being Put Into Early Immediate Menopause I Had To Have A Lumpectomy Radiation Therapy A Hysterectomy And I Am Currently On Letrozole I Can’t Keep The Weight Off And It Seems To Take An Extraordinary Amount Of Exercise To Even Lose A Few Pounds
Ms. Dixon:;;About half of women who are treated for breast cancer will gain weight during or after treatment.
There is some good news. Researchers have found that if women engage in regular resistance training during and after cancer treatment, including activities such as push ups, sit ups, walking lunges, using stretchy bands to challenge your muscles, or lifting weights, they are much less likely to gain weight. Resistance training preserves your muscle , and this in turn keeps your metabolism higher.;
If resistance training is combined with regular cardio or aerobic activities, weight gain is even less likely to occur. Combining regular weight training with regular aerobic activity also is key for losing weight.
If youve never done any resistance training, ask your doctor for a or . Also, if youve recently had , be sure to get the OK from your doctor that you can begin some moderate resistance training. Fortunately, the latest research shows that women will not increase the risk of by strength training.
What Are The Side Effects Of Anastrozole
Side effects may start within a day of starting Anastrozole. This is because Anastrozole lowers total body estrogen levels by about 70% within 24 hours of starting the drug, which causes side effects similar to those of menopause, such as hot flashes or difficulty sleeping.
Talk with your doctor if you are having difficulty managing your side effects from Anastrozole.
Common side effects of Anastrozole that affect more than 5% of women and generally start soon after therapy begins to include:
- Back, chest, muscle, stomach, or pelvic pain
Other side effects that generally take weeks or months to develop include:
- Bone pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Depression or low mood
- Osteoporosis and fractures
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the ankles and feet
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight gain.
The most common reason for discontinuing anastrozole has been hot flashes, although the incidence of this is less than with tamoxifen. Serious side effects that occur in less than 1% of women include:
- Skin reactions, such as lesions, ulcers or blisters
- Severe allergic reactions with swelling of the face, lips, tongue or throat
- Liver toxicity, including liver inflammation and changes in liver function tests.
Also Check: Does Breast Cancer Show In Blood Work
Question: How Can I Rev Up My Metabolism
Ms. Dixon:;Do you exercise regularly? If not, this is the first thing you can do to rev up a sluggish metabolism. If youre already engaged in regular, daily physical activity, you may need to mix it up a bit.;
Our bodies adapt to activity, so the only way to keep improving fitness levels and keep our metabolism humming, is to keep the body guessing. For example, stead-state cardio, such as jogging at a set pace, needs to be mixed with what is called;high-intensity interval training, or HIIT.;
Interval training is one of the most effective ways to rev up metabolism. You dont need to do hours of this type of training, just 15;or 20 minutes as long as you are truly going all out during the high-intensity phase a few times per week can greatly increase metabolism.;
In addition to HIIT, you can benefit from adding some resistance or strength training to your regular activities. Muscles are what burn calories, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate. Even something as simple as using your own body weight for resistance can be enough to build muscle .;
Examples of body weight resistance training include push-ups, sit-ups, walking lunges;and using stretchy bands to challenge your muscles.;
If you already do regular strength training,;you may benefit from trying new ways of challenging your muscles.;
One final note on training:
Who Is Most Likely To Gain Weight
The following patient-specific characteristics have been found to be factors that increase weight gain in patients with breast cancer:
- being pre-menopausal at the time of diagnosis
- being younger than 40 years old
- being of African-American ethnicity
- being diagnosed at an early stage of breast cancer
- being underweight or overweight at the time of diagnosis
- being sedentary at the time of diagnosis
There are also treatment-specific factors that lead to increased weight gain. These include:
- longer duration of chemotherapy cycles
- multiagent regimens vs. single
- treatment with cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and 5-flourouracil
- corticoid premedication
Also Check: What Happens If You Have Stage 4 Breast Cancer
Why Do Weight And Muscle Loss Happen
One cause is the cancer itself. For example, in an effort to fight the cancer, the body produces substances called cytokines. These substances can lead to weight loss, muscle loss, and a decrease in appetite. Another common cause is the treatments for cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy often cause a decrease in appetite. They can also lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and mouth sores, which can affect your ability to eat normally, further contributing to weight and muscle loss. Fatigue is also a factor, since the decreases in exercise and other physical activities that happen when youre not feeling well can contribute to muscle loss. For more information on treatment side effects like fatigue and mouth sores, read CancerCares booklet titled Understanding and Managing Chemotherapy Side Effects.
How Can Weight Gain From Fluid Retention Be Managed
Fluid retention or edema is swelling caused by the buildup of fluid in the body. If you have edema, you might feel like your clothes, rings, or shoes are too tight. People with edema can also have less flexibility in their hands, elbows, wrists, fingers, or legs. Swollen arms or legs, especially around the wrists or ankles, are also a sign of edema. The fluid buildup collects under the skin, so your skin might feel puffy or stiff. Pressing on your skin might leave small indentations.
Talk to your health care team about any of these symptoms so they can diagnose and treat edema. Some of the ways edema can be managed include:
Medication. Your doctor can prescribe a diuretic to remove excess water.
Lower the amount of salt in your diet.
Avoid standing for long periods.
Elevate your feet as often as possible.
Avoid crossing your legs, which restricts blood flow.
Weigh yourself at the same time every day to keep track of changes. This can help your health care team see any fluctuations in your weight that might be caused by edema. Bring this log with you to appointments for your health care team to evaluate.
Avoid tight clothing and footwear.
Ask your health care team if wearing support or compression socks may help.
Also Check: Does Nipple Piercing Cause Breast Cancer
Question: Does Tamoxifen Cause Weight Gain Especially Around The Midsection And When I Stop Taking It Will I Have An Easier Time Losing The Extra Fat There I Have 10 Months Of The 5
Ms. Dixon:; is associated with weight gain, though not as much as many women believe. Health experts note that about 5 to 10 pounds of weight gain during and after breast cancer treatment may be due to tamoxifen. Certainly, 10 pounds is noticeable, and its not insignificant. However, tamoxifen alone isnt the main reason why women gain 20, 30, or even 40 pounds after a breast cancer .;
Excessive weight gain is because the body is going through a sort of;accelerated aging, in terms of loss of lean body ;and slowing of metabolism.;
Regarding where the weight goes your midsection vs. other areas of the body tamoxifen may contribute to a thicker middle. Many women put on weight in their mid-section as they age, and this is generally attributed to decreasing levels. Since tamoxifen actively works to block the activity of estrogen in many tissues, it can contribute to weight gain around the belly.
There is no way to know if you will have an easier time losing weight in your mid-section after going off of tamoxifen. If you are
Too Stressed To Be Slim
Conjure up an image of an anxious person in your minds eye. Theyre probably skinny with all that worry, arent they? But according to Dr. Glenville, stress is another factor in the bodys hoarding of fat stores.;
The stress of diagnosis and treatment can lead to weight gain, because cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, can affect what you eat, she explains. Basically a body under stress wants to keep a fat store in order to protect itself. If we were fighting for our lives, this would be very beneficial in a famine situation. Not so great, though, if you just want to look good in your jeans.;
So, our hormones natural or artificial are against us; our age is against us, and even being stressed can make us fat. You could be forgiven for wondering if there was any hope for your waistline at all. Thankfully, though, there is a way, and its all about balance. Youll also be pleased to know you can forget fad diets once and for all, and running marathons isnt the answer either.;
Read Also: Can Cancer Come Back In The Same Breast
At The Crossroads Of Obesity Inflammation And Immune Function
Its important to understand that obesity drives low-grade inflammation, and this inflammation impairs immune response and is also linked to several diseases, including cancer. In the case of breast cancers, excess fat, in combination with menopause can drive triple-negative breast cancer. This type of breast cancer is aggressive and poorly responsive to treatment. In the presence of MBC, the goal should be to lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
How Can Weight Gain During Cancer Treatment Be Managed
If you notice changes in your weight, eating habits, or bloating, let your health care team know so they can help you. Relieving symptoms and side effects is an important part of your overall cancer care and treatment. This type of care is called palliative care or supportive care.
Before starting any kind of diet or changing your eating habits, talk with a member of your health care team. You may find it helpful to talk with a registered dietitian . They will help you find the possible cause for your weight gain and the best way to manage it. An RD can also provide nutritional guidelines or a customized diet plan.
General suggestions about good nutrition during cancer treatment include:
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Limit fat, sugar, and refined flour.
Drink plenty of water.
Use healthier cooking methods whenever possible.
Regular physical activity can also be helpful during and after cancer treatment. Check with your doctor before starting a new type of exercise or increasing your physical activity.
Try different physical activities, such as walking or bicycling, to find one that you enjoy and will do regularly.
Explore exercise classes designed for people diagnosed with cancer, either in-person or online.
Try strength-building exercises. These can be especially helpful if you have lost muscle.
Also Check: What Does Pt1c Mean In Breast Cancer
When Is Weight Loss A Sign Of Cancer
Medically Reviewed By: Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, MD, MPH
Everyones weight fluctuates over the course of life, rising or falling with changes in diet and exercise, and with the normal slowing of metabolism that occurs as we age. When weight loss occurs for no apparent reason especially if the drop is dramatic a variety of physical or psychological causes could be responsible. These can include diabetes, depression, celiac disease, an under- or overactive thyroid gland, peptic ulcer, colitis, cancer, or other condition. When a loss of 10 pounds or more occurs without changes in diet or physical activity, its important for people to see their doctor for an exam.
For many cancer patients, unexplained weight loss may be the first noticeable sign of the disease estimates place the number at 40 percent of patients. This happens most often with cancers of the pancreas, stomach, esophagus, or lung, according to the American Cancer Society.
Weight loss associated with cancer can derive from a range of factors.; Depending on the type of cancer and the organs affected, individuals may experience nausea or a lack of appetite, or have difficulty chewing or swallowing, which causes their food intake to drop. Cancer cells also use a disproportionate amount of the bodys energy supply and often release substances that alter the way the body processes food energy. These changes, too, can result in weight loss.
Questions To Ask Your Health Care Team
Can this cancer or its treatment cause weight gain?
Can my cancer treatment cause edema?
What are ways I can track my weight during cancer treatment?
Who should I tell if I notice changes in my weight?
Is there an oncology dietitian and/or other specialists that I can talk with about making food choices and my exercise routine?
Are there certain exercises I should avoid due to my diagnosis or its treatment?
Who can I talk with if I need help coping with stress or other emotional effects of cancer?
Recommended Reading: What Does It Feel Like To Have Breast Cancer
What Can I Do To Help Maintain My Weight And Build Strength
Along with taking any medicines your doctor prescribes, there are many things you can do to help your body stay strong. Good, balanced nutrition and proper hydration are very important:
Eat a balanced diet, and be sure to include protein to protect lean body mass. Beef, pork, poultry, tofu and soy nuts are excellent sources of protein. So are dairy products try some Greek yogurt, which is higher in protein than regular yogurt. For more information on nutrition during treatment, read CancerCares fact sheet title The Importance of Nutrition During Treatment.
Increase the number of calories you eat. Choose nutritious foods that you enjoy. If appetite is a problem, try eating smaller, more frequent meals; make milkshakes, smoothies, and purees, which may be easier to digest; and add milk or protein powder to your foods.
Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day. Water is best, but you can also get fluids from soups, popsicles and sports drinks.
Keep a journal. Keeping details of the side effects that you experience will help your health care team. Having a health care journal or notebook will allow you to keep all of your health information in one place. If you are experiencing constipation, it may be helpful to keep a journal detailing:
- Physical activities you do and how they affect your mood and energy level
- Your diet
- Fluid intake and type of fluid
- Medications youre currently taking
Edema And Cancer Treatment
Certain exercises and diet changes can help, if edema is the cause of swelling. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine called a diuretic.
Edema, a condition in which fluid builds up in your bodys tissues, may be caused by some types of chemotherapy, certain cancers, and conditions not related to cancer.
Signs of edema may include:
- swelling in your feet, ankles, and legs
- swelling in your hands and arms
- swelling in your face or abdomen
- skin that is puffy, shiny, or looks slightly dented after being pressed
- shortness of breath, a cough, or irregular heartbeat
Tell your health care team if you notice swelling. Your doctor or nurse will determine what is causing your symptoms, advise you on steps to take, and may prescribe medicine.
Some problems related to edema are serious. Call your doctor or nurse if you feel short of breath, have a heartbeat that seems different or is not regular, have sudden swelling or swelling that is getting worse or is moving up your arms or legs, you gain weight quickly, or you dont urinate at all or urinate only a little.
You May Like: Where Does Breast Cancer Usually Spread
Let’s Talk About Carbs
Assuming that youve discussed daily calorie needs with a professional, especially if weight loss is a goal, then the spotlight needs to be on grains. This food group needs special attention because processed carbohydrates have overwhelmed the American diet. Choose whole grains as the primary ingredient and make sure the ingredient list is short. Labels should say 100 percent whole wheat or the unprocessed grain should be the first and primary ingredient. Use portion control and decide how many portions to have daily.