Ovarian Cancer and Weight Gain

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.

Role of Extra Weight in Ovarian Cancer

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.

Reasons for Weight Gain With Ovarian Cancer

Your disease may cause added weight for several reasons. And it’s common for your scale to go up or down during treatments, including for ovarian cancer.

Tumors. Your cancer can make your belly swell and leave you feeling bloated. Those two are the most common symptoms of ovarian cancer. But you might dismiss them as a weight creep that comes with age. 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.

How to Keep a Healthy Weight

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.

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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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on September 06, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Moffitt Cancer Center: “Can Ovarian Cancer Cause Weight Gain?”

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center: “Ovarian cancer symptoms: 4 things to know.”

Mayo Clinic: “What exactly is metabolism?”

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: “8 Tips for Managing Weight during and after Cancer Treatment.”

World Cancer Research Fund International: “A scientific breakthrough: maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk of ovarian cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Does Body Weight Affect Cancer Risk?” “Weight Changes.”

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: “How Can I Avoid Gaining Weight During Cancer Treatment?”

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