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Frequently Asked Questions


Is weight gain common during breast cancer treatments?

"I am a year out from my breast cancer surgery and a few months out from my last treatment. I gained 30 lbs. during treatment and I thought it would go away. Ha! Is this weight gain common, should I be concerned, and what should I do about it?"

Yes, weight gain during chemotherapy for breast cancer is, unfortunately, very common. It is a common complaint of women who continue with the anti-estrogen drug Tamoxifen, also. Reasons for the weight gain are not fully understood and certainly are likely to be multi-factorial. In fact, 30 pounds is right within the range of weight gain commonly seen (much to the dismay of these women, as you have expressed!)

You are wise to be concerned about this weight gain. Excess weight can increase your risk for many chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, additional types of cancer like endometrial (uterine) cancer, and preliminary research indicates there may even be a potential increased risk of breast cancer recurrence associated with weight gain (although more research is needed here to verify this). Of particular concern is excess fat around the abdomen (the *apple* shape vs the *pear* shape where fat accumulates on the hips and thighs).

I commend you for starting to figure out how to better optimize your health and strongly suggest that you ask for an appointment with the Registered Dietitian at your local cancer center, hospital, or in private practice to help develop a lifestyle approach for weight reduction that takes all of your health risks into consideration as you recover from your breast cancer diagnosis and treatments. She will be able to provide individualized counseling sessions, consult with all of your physicians, continue to reassess your nutritional requirements as you make progress toward your goals, and motivate and encourage you along the way. (Dietitians in private practice can be found on the web site for The American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org)

Best wishes and good health to you!

faq posted 8/00


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Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Is soy safe to consume for women with ER+ breast cancer? posted 4/01, updated 1/05
Breast Cancer Is there any new information for breast cancer patients who have ER+ tumors regarding the safety of eating soy foods? posted 2/02
Breast Cancer I am currently taking Tamoxifen. My daughter heard on TV that I should be eating soy to make it work more efficiently. Do you know of any studies verifying this information? posted 5/01, updated 1/05
Breast Cancer I have read conflicting reports on the benefits vs. the dangers of Tamoxifen for breast cancer treatment. Have you found better nutritional alternatives?
Breast Cancer Should women with ER+ breast cancer avoid flaxseeds and flax oil that contain the phytoestrogens called lignans?
Breast Cancer Is weight gain common during breast cancer treatments? posted 8/00
Breast Cancer What are some good breast cancer web sites? posted 4/04
Breast Cancer Are there any foods I should avoid while taking Tamoxifen? posted 6/04
Breast Cancer Does moderate alcohol consumption have a harmful effect on persons who have had breast cancer? posted 11/04
Breast Cancer Should I be avoiding all caffeine to help fight my breast cancer?
posted 11/04

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These questions and answers are intended to be of a general informative nature. Please consult with the Registered Dietitian in your cancer center or your health care provider for nutritional advice that can be individualized to your specific medical condition.

Contact Information:
Phone/Fax: 734/996-9260

P.O. Box 130221, Ann Arbor, MI  48113

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