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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Breast Cancer Treatment and Weight Changes

What Can Cause Weight Loss?

It's typically due to a poor appetite or nausea, which can be a side effect of chemotherapy.

What Are the Risks of Gaining or Losing Pounds?

Weight gain can raise your risk for getting high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Being overweight also puts you at risk for getting other types of cancers. Research has also shown that carrying around extra pounds can raise your risk of breast cancer recurring.

Weight loss can cause you to lose energy, and poor nutrition can make it harder for you to recover.

What Should I Eat During My Treatment?

Stick to a well-balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, dairy products, breads, poultry, fish, and lean meat. A diet low in total and saturated fat helps lower your risk of heart disease, and also lowers the risk that your breast cancer will return.

It's important to get enough protein. This helps build and repair skin, hair, and muscles during your treatment. It may improve your ability to exercise, too.

Good nutrition can help you with the side effects of chemotherapy, and help fight off infections. It lets your body rebuild healthy tissues more quickly.

Also, drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated, and to protect your bladder and kidneys while on chemotherapy.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 03, 2015
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