Breast cancer is the second biggest type of cancer in women, after skin cancer. While cancer treatment is thought to cause weight loss, the new study reveals that breast cancer patients tend to struggle with weight gain after being diagnosed. The data analyzed in this study is obtained from the first-ever national Australian survey on weight-related changes after breast cancer.
Complete findings are published in the “BMC Cancer journal.”
Nearly two-thirds of women (63%) indicated a weight gain after diagnosed with breast cancer. On average, they gained 9 kilograms of weight and one in every five women diagnosed with breast cancer gained more than 20 kgs weight.
This survey was conducted as a collaborative project of NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University, ICON Cancer Centre and Sydney Adventist Hospital, Wahroonga.
Nearly 309 breast cancer patients living in Australia were surveyed as anonymous beings. This survey was a self-administered and cross-sectional, online report, recorded in November 2017 and January 2018. Most of the participants were a member of “Breast Cancer Network Australia” (BCNA).
77% of women reported an increase in their weight in 12-18 months of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Dr. Ee is the first author of this study and she is a senior research fellow at NICM Health Research Institute, Western Sydney University. He says;
“As well as significant weight gain, we also found high levels of concern about weight among our survey participants. Timing may be the key in helping women to manage weight after a diagnosis of breast cancer.”
She further adds that:
“Cancer services and general practitioners play an important role in having early conversations with women, and referring them to a team of qualified healthcare professionals such as dieticians and exercise physiologists with experience in cancer.”
The survey reported the following things.
- The percentage of overweight women at the time of being diagnosed increased from 48% to 67%.
- The percentage of obese women increased to double that is 17% to 32%.
- 69% of women gained excessive weight in comparison with healthy women.
John Boyages AM is the co-author of this study. He is a radiation oncologist working at Icon Cancer Centre. He says that women diagnosed with breast cancer need to follow a healthy diet and recommended exercises as per the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) guidelines.
He says: “As doctors, we really need to actively think about weight, nutrition, and exercise and advise about possible interventions.”
He also shares: “Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide and in Australia, and weight gain is common after breast cancer treatment. Many patients assume they will lose weight. Weight gain adds to self-esteem problems, increases the risk of heart disease and other cancers and several reports suggest it may affect prognosis and also increases the risk of arm swelling (lymphoedema). Prescribing a healthy lifestyle is just as important as prescribing tablets.”
Dr. Ee also elaborates that after being diagnosed with breast cancer, women often experience fatigue and stress which triggers their weight gain. Previous studies tell that fatigue can be reduced by following moderate exercise every day. But in the case of breast cancer patients, the diet and exercise need to be supervised by the professionals, she says.