Back July 27, 2018

It’s Real. Breast Cancer Treatments Do Cause Weight Gain!

You’ve likely been told that the weight gain after or during breast cancer treatment wasn’t related directly to the treatment.

But a new review of the medical literature provides a different perspective.

But, first some facts:

  • HALF to almost ALL women diagnosed with early stage disease experience weight gain during treatment
  • it is HARDER to lose the weight after treatment and it negatively impacts self-image, quality of life and overall health
  • excess weight is associated with an INCREASED CHANCE of the breast cancer coming back and poorer survival rates

How big is the problem?

According to one study, the average weight gain of women within year 1 after diagnosis was 3.3 lbs, year 2 was 5.94 lbs, and year 3 was 6.16 lbs. Another survey showed a 3% increase in obesity annually for breast cancer survivors

WHY? We don’t know, but here are some theories – any of these familiar to you?

  • Fatigue
  • Alterations in smell and taste causing changes in eating patterns
  • Reduced physical activity leading to an impaired energy balance

The relationship between weight gain and breast cancer treatments is complex and some studies contradict others. This is an area where additional research will be focused in the coming years.

Are there differences according to the therapy received?

In short – yes. Weight gain may be caused by specific type and duration of therapies.

In multiple studies, chemo has been shown to be associated with weight gain compared to hormonal therapy (also called endocrine or anti-estrogen therapy) or no therapy at all. In some studies, chemo is associated with a median of 17-22 pounds of weight gain with the only notable difference being fewer women impacted and lower weight gain (3-11 lbs) associated with taxane (chemo) based therapies.

Anti-estrogen therapy is less frequently linked with weight gain, and if there is attributable weight gain, it is less. And there seems to be no difference in weight gain depending on the type of anti-hormonal therapy used.

So – what to do if you are on or have completed treatment but are carrying extra weight?

Luckily, there is so much information available on how to combat weight gain. Visit our partner, breastcancer.org for extensive information on nutrition and exercise. And keep a good perspective on the situation!

References:

  1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.critrevonc.2018.06.011