Ovarian Cancer and Weight Gain

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on May 14, 2023
3 min read

You can have ovarian cancer but have few or no symptoms in the early stages. One of the warning signs that you may overlook is weight gain. The extra pounds are both a risk factor for getting ovarian cancer as well as a side effect from the disease or its treatments.

Being overweight or obese raises your chances for many types of cancer. That clearly includes ovarian cancer. Too much fat in your body can lead to high levels of hormones such as estrogen and insulin that fuel cancerous tumors or help them spread. The extra weight also may cause inflammation or interfere with how cells and blood vessels grow.

Extra weight maybe more than just a risk factor, it also be a side effect of your ovarian cancer or its treatment. Other reasons for weight gain with ovarian cancer may include:

Tumors. Your cancer can make your belly swell and leave you feeling bloated. You might dismiss these signs as a weight creep that comes with age. But persistent bloat or belly pain could be possible symptoms of ovarian cancer. A tumor in your ovary may be crowding out your belly cavity.

Treatment. Chemotherapy and hormone therapy can cause fluid retention. The extra water that your body hangs on to can make your weight go up and leave your clothes feeling snug.

Some ovarian cancer treatments can also slow your metabolism. That means your body burns fewer calories for energy. That can add up to weight gain.

Less physical activity. Cancer can sap your energy and also tire you out more easily than before. Both can cause you to exercise less, which may lead to extra pounds.

Diet changes. Chemotherapy sometimes can make you crave certain foods, like sweets and breads and other carbs. You also might find yourself eating more because a full stomach can lessen nausea from cancer treatments.

It may be a challenge to eat well and to stay active during your cancer treatments. These tips may help:

Don’t limit yourself. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can change how foods taste, or cause sores that make eating difficult. It’s best to eat a range of healthy foods unless your doctor tells you to avoid something.

Eat reasonable portions. Aim to eat equal amounts of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and carbs. Talk to your doctor about the best food options and serving sizes for you.

Tell your doctor about all the vitamins and supplements you’re taking. It’s usually better to get your nutrients through foods because they won’t interfere with cancer medications.

Move as much as you can. Even a walk can help you keep a healthy weight during cancer treatment. Try to get some physical activity every day.

Don’t rush. If you want to shed some weight after your cancer diagnosis, ask your doctor about the safest way to do that. Losing weight too quickly may be hard on your body just when you need to be at your strongest as you go through treatments.