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.
Do Other Breast Cancer Medications Cause Weight Gain
Hormone therapy is another treatment that can cause it. This treatment lowers the amount of estrogen and progesterone in women and the amount testosterone in men. It tends to cause an increase in body fat, too. At the same time, there’s a decrease in muscle mass and a change in the way your body converts food into energy.
Many women taking tamoxifen have felt the drug was responsible for their weight gain. So far, though, no conclusive studies have shown a relationship between this hormone and the gains.
Weight gain is not typical in women who’ve undergone surgery alone, or women who’ve had surgery followed by radiation alone.
Nutrition After Cancer Treatment Is Important For Recovery
- Sub Heading
Nutrition after treatment is important for rebuilding your strength and energy during recovery.
- Main Image
5 MIN. READ
Now that you’ve finished treatment, it’s time to focus on getting stronger. Each form of cancer is different, and the same is true for the impact on the body from person to person. But one thing is consistent among all cancer survivors: Nutrition is just as important in recovery as it was during treatment.
How Cancer Treatment Affects the Body
Also, weight fluctuations are common during treatment, with many people experiencing nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition.
Following a balanced diet during cancer treatment can help keep you strong, but it’s not always easy to get all the nutrients you need with these symptoms in the equation. That’s why nutrition during recovery can become even more important.
“When you finish your treatment, you may still be at risk for malnutrition and depleted muscle mass,” explained Abby Sauer, MPH, RD, an Abbott dietitian. “After treatment, some side effects may go away pretty quickly.” For instance, a sore or dry mouth may subside within a week after treatment, but poor appetite or weight loss may linger for weeks or months, according to Sauer.
Is your nutrition foundation strong?Nutritional Assessment Checklist
Protein is Key
Recovery: Tips for Maintaining Good Nutrition
Recommended Reading: Prostate Cancer Treatment Radiation Seeds
How To Gain Weight After Chemotherapy
Weight loss is a common side effect of chemotherapy, and gaining weight can be more challenging than you may think. After chemotherapy treatments, people sometimes experience dry mouth, mouth sores, trouble swallowing and have changes in tastes and smells, according to the American Cancer Society. These side effects can make it difficult to eat. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage these side effects so that eating and regaining your strength is easier.
Eat your favorite foods. Eating your favorite foods, such as comfort foods, can help stimulate your appetite, says the National Cancer Institute. If the foods do not taste good, try adding spice, salt and pepper. Eat your favorite foods until you feel that you can try other foods.
Talk with your doctor about taking an anti-nausea medication. There are different types of anti-nausea medications that can help relieve the nausea and will help you be able to eat without feeling sick. When you aren’t feeling sick, you will be more likely to eat enough to gain weight.
Eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the American Cancer Society. Dark green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and yellow vegetables contain folate, iron, calcium and vitamins A, C and K that are essential to improving your immune system and keeping you healthy.
How Important Is Exercise
It’s really good for your overall health — but talk to your doctor before you begin any exercise program.
Physical activity can often help reduce the side effects of nausea and fatigue. It can also lift your energy levels. One study found that exercise after chemotherapy might boost infection-fighting T cells, too.
Even a moderate amount of exercise may help you live longer.
Strength training can help rebuild body mass and increase your strength. You need to take care when working with weights on the upper body, though. That’s because lymphedema — arm swelling — is a common concern after breast cancer treatment.
Recommended Reading: How To Use Panacur C For Cancer
If You Have Lost Weight
You may have lost weight due to cancer, or the side effects of treatment. You may not feel hungry, or feel full soon after starting eating. Some people may feel sick, or find that foods taste different.
Some types of cancer make your body use up more energy, even if you are not very active. You may lose weight even if you are eating well. If you lose too much, it is important to talk to a dietitian.
The building-up diet is high in energy and protein. It can help you add extra energy and protein to your food without having to eat more. It is for people who have lost or are losing weight, or who can only eat small amounts.
Your doctor or dietitian may also recommend food supplements. These include nutritional drink, soups, powders, or puddings that can help you get extra nutrients and calories.
Promoting Weight Gain During Cancer Treatment
Many cancer patients experience weight loss during cancer treatment. It can be a result of the cancer itself or nutrition related side effects that affect your food intake, such as nausea, taste changes, and decreased appetite. Weight loss during treatment is linked to more hospitalizations, delays in treatment, and malnutrition. A common concern for caregivers and patients alike is how to promote weight gain in a healthy way. During and after cancer treatment, it is important to provide your body with adequate nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. In this article, we will provide tips to promote weight gain while eating a healthy balanced diet.
Weight loss does not have to be an uncontrollable outcome of cancer treatment. Using these tips above and focusing on your nutrition related side effects can be the difference between weight loss and weight gain. It is important to not get discouraged if you see the number going down on the scale. Having a positive attitude and being proactive about your nutrition can make a big difference. Create a nutrition plan with the help of your oncology dietitian and medical team and dont be afraid to ask for help when you need it!
Submit your questions here and the experts at Savor Health may answer it in an upcoming blog!
Also Check: Tooth Pain That Radiates To Ear
After Treatment Be Prepared For Change
The end of treatment brings pivotal changes, both mental and physical, for cancer survivors, including a recommended switch back to a mostly plant-based diet to manage their weight. Just like other healthy people, survivors should follow the MyPlate recommendations to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables and split the remaining half between grains and protein.
For survivors, its still very important to make sure their weight is a healthy weight, Ms. Gerdes says, explaining that this group may be at higher risk for other health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. We want to make sure that once theyve gotten over the hump of treatment that they continue forward with a healthy diet, at a healthy weight, with a healthy lifestyle.
Ms. Stella adds: Recommendations about weight management are patient specific, and there is no meal plan thats right for everyone. Patients undergoing active treatment will always be instructed to maintain or gain weight, while some survivors may be instructed to lose weight. Its always best to check with your primary doctor to determine if weight loss, gain, or maintenance is best.
Drink Plenty Of Liquids
Hydration is an important aspect of a healthy radiation diet. It is recommended that individuals drink 3-4 quarts of liquids every day. Drinking lots of water is especially important if you experience diarrhea during radiation therapy.
Good hydration flushes toxins out of the body and reduces treatment side effects such as nausea, weakness, bowel changes, and fatigue, says Komar. Staying hydrated can also help keep a patient from going into the cancer center for IV hydration.
Keep a filled water bottle with you at all times and drink, drink, drink. Some Jello, pudding, popsicles and juice products are additional hydration sources, but be cautions of their sugar content. If you do not care for the taste of water, try sneaking water into soup broths, fruit shakes, and flavored teas.
Don’t Miss: Low-dose Chemo Hair Loss
Engage In Physical Exercises
Physical exercises help in building muscle and improving energy levels. If you are tired and weak, start with at least three minutes of walking and build up from there. Some exercises you can do while sitting that can improve your strength and flexibility include making a fist and moving your arms up and down and front to back.
Put The Brakes On Supplement Use
Eating whole foods, and getting the nutrients your body needs from them, is the gold standard of nutrition. In fact, vitamins and other supplements which arent regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration or any agency can actually interfere with certain cancer treatments and medications.
It depends on what treatment youre on and what supplement youre taking, Ms. Gerdes says, but supplements are definitely something we want our patients to avoid most of the time because theyre taking so many medications, we dont know whats going to interact with them.
Be honest with your medical team about vitamins or herbal supplements youve been taking in any form, whether pills, shakes, or powders. To educate yourself on herbs and potential adverse reactions or interactions with treatment, visit MSKs About Herbs webpage.
Also Check: Best Gloves For Chemo Patients
Learning About How Chemotherapy Affects Your Weight
Making High Calorie Drinks
Don’t Miss: Side Effects From Radiation Treatments
Causes Of Weight Gain With Chemotherapy
The reasons a patient may gain weight while receiving chemotherapy include:
- Chemotherapy may cause swelling , leading the body to retain extra fluid. This is also known as fluid retention or lymphedema.
- You may feel hungrier while undergoing chemotherapy, or you may feel nauseous and then relief when you eat.
- You may be exercising less because chemotherapy causes you to feel fatigued.
- Chemotherapy may cause menopause in some women, which may lead to a decrease in metabolism.
- Certain types of cancer, such as ovarian cancer, are associated with weight gain.
- Your doctor may prescribe steroid medication during chemotherapy treatment. Steroids may help lower inflammation and treat nausea. However, steroids also may increase your appetite and fullness in the abdomen, face and neck.
- For breast, prostate, testicular or uterine cancer, you also may receive hormone therapy. These therapies may lower the amount of estrogen or progesterone in females and testosterone in men. Lowering these hormones may cause you to increase fat while lowering your metabolism and muscle mass.
- A cancer diagnosis may lead you to feel more stress, and that may prompt you to eat more and put on weight.
Be sure to schedule regular checkups and screenings for other conditions while youre on chemotherapy, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, as they may also be related to weight gain.
Tips To Help Maintain A Healthy Weight During Cancer Treatment
This page adheres to our medical and editorial policy and guidelines.
Cancer, its symptoms and the side effects of treatments may take a toll on a patients appetite, making it difficult to maintain a healthy weight. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, taste changes and mouth sores are side effects that can make it difficult to eat. Cancer also affects the bodys metabolism. In its attempt to fight the disease, the body may expend more energy, making it necessary for the patient to consume more calories to maintain a healthy weight. Cancer also produces molecules called cytokines that may change the way the body processes food energy, causing a decreased appetite and weight and muscle loss.
To help patients maintain or gain weight during cancer treatment, Zachari Breeding, an Advanced Clinical Oncology Dietitian at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® in Philadelphia, advises that they find ways to increase the number of calories they consume. You cant eat what you used to, Breeding says. You must eat for your new body with cancer.
Muscle loss is also a concern because research shows it may weaken the bodys immune function, Breeding says. If youre losing muscle secondarily because you cant meet the bodys protein and energy needs, youre also compromising the immune system, which may make treatment side effects worse, further causing you not to eat and lose weight. Eating plenty of protein is also key to staving off muscle loss, he says.
You May Like: Urine Test For Cancer Cells
How Can Your Diet Help Manage Cancer Treatment Side Effects
Some dietary changes can help you manage side effects after your treatment begins. These side effects include:
- Appetite loss. Eat small meals or nutritious snacks throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
- Constipation. Drink plenty of water, consider a fiber supplement, and add veggies and beans to your meals.
- Diarrhea. Choose foods or drinks with sodium and potassium .
- Loss of taste. Knowing what to eat when you cant taste can be difficult. Consider trying new foods with different spices or marinades. You can also add strong flavors, such as lemon or lime juice.
- Nausea. Anti-nausea foods include citrus, ginger and peppermint oil. You can suck on a slice of lemon, drink ginger tea or eat ginger chews.
Strong Emotions Can Go Along With Weight Gain
Its normal to feel anxiety about body changes like weight gain. Youre right to have any feelings you have, including:
Sometimes, when our bodies are under more stress than normal, weight changes can occur. It is important to remember that you need to give yourself some time to adjust to these changes. Make sure that you are fueling your body in a healthy way while remaining active.
Read Also: Best Gifts For Someone Going Through Chemo