Women with breast cancer often complain of weight gain as an undesirable side effect of their treatment. Premenopausal women who receive chemotherapy are at higher risk for weight changes after completing therapy.
Many women who have chemotherapy for breast cancer have reported an average weight gain of about 5 to 8 pounds over a year. Some have reported gaining less, while others have gained as much as 25 pounds.
WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as
part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me
& the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were
diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Tammy Joyner, 49, lives in the Atlanta area. When
Joyner was 45 years old, she went to see her gynecologist after noticing some
breast changes -- aches and soreness that she wasn't used to.
"I said, 'Something's...
One reason could be premature menopause brought on by chemotherapy. Menopause makes it easier to gain weight because it causes metabolism to slow down. There is also a change in body composition. Your body gains more body fat and loses lean muscle.
A second reason for weight gain during breast cancer treatment is the use of corticosteroids to help with nausea or swelling or to prevent a reaction that can occur with chemotherapy. These types of drugs can cause an increase in your appetite. Steroids are hormonal substances that can also cause an increase in fatty tissue. In addition, they can cause a redistribution of muscle mass from the extremities into the abdominal area as fat. The usual result is a fullness of the neck or face and a big belly. Another side effect of steroid medications is loss of muscle mass. That loss of muscle makes weight gain more apparent.
Weight gain may also be related to intense food cravings. Some women have cravings that typically involve sweets and carbohydrates during chemotherapy. These foods can cause weight gain, especially when they're not eaten in moderation.