Does Cancer Treatment Cause Unwanted Weight Gain
Weight loss is a common side effect of some cancer treatments. But sometimes, the opposite happens and patients end up packing on the pounds instead of losing them.
So, what causes involuntary weight gain in some cancer patients? And what can patients and their physicians do to counteract this unexpected side effect?
We spoke with integrative medicine specialist Wenli Liu, M.D., to learn more. Heres what she had to say.
What are the most common causes of involuntary weight gain during cancer treatment?
There are actually several, but the biggest is probably steroids. These are prescribed to prevent inflammatory and anaphylactic reactions to chemotherapy, to reduce swelling in patients with brain tumors, and as a cancer-fighting agent used to treat cancers such as lymphoma/myeloma. The downside is that steroids also act as a major appetite stimulant, which can spur overeating.
Another common cause of involuntary weight gain is hormone-suppressing treatments, such as those received by patients with breast cancer or prostate cancer. Hormones have a tremendous effect on metabolism. Hormonal treatments for breast and prostate cancer can result in involuntary weight gain.
The third example is fear: the fear of losing weight. Sometimes, patients are so afraid that theyll become emaciated or unable to eat that they force themselves to do so while they still can, even when theyre not losing weight at all. Over time, that can lead to weight gain, too.
How Hormones Affect Weight Loss And Retention
Hormones are chemicals within the body that are produced by the endocrine systems glands. These hormones travel throughout the body to the proper organs, systems, and tissues to deliver messages telling systems within the body what to do and when.
Research has shown that as we age, there are changes in hormones that occur naturally for example, an endocrine tissue may produce less of its hormone than it did at a younger age, or it may produce the same amount at a slower rate. This is followed by a drop in progesterone, DHEA, parathyroid hormone, and calcitonin. Without the right balance of hormones, your body loses the ability to regulate the processes that lead to weight loss. This results in a slower metabolism, an increase in abdominal fat, and less energy for exercise.
What Cancer Treatments Can Cause Weight Gain
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, steroid treatment, and hormone treatments can lead to weight gain in different ways.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy can lead to weight gain by:
Causing the body to hold on to excess fluid, called edema.
Causing fatigue, making it harder to exercise.
Increasing nausea that improves by eating more food.
Triggering intense food cravings.
Lowering your metabolism. Metabolism is the rate that the body uses energy. When your metabolism is low, you burn less calories, which can make you gain weight.
Causing menopause, which also slows down your metabolism.
Steroid medications. Steroids are prescribed during cancer treatment for several reasons. This type of medication can reduce symptoms of inflammation, such as swelling and pain. They can treat nausea. And they can be used as a treatment for cancer itself, such as for multiple myeloma.
A common side effect of steroids is weight gain. Steroids can lead to weight gain by:
Increasing your appetite and making you eat more.
Increasing fat tissue in the abdomen, neck, face, or other areas with long-term use.
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Keep As Active As Possible
Fatigue is such a prevalent side effect of many cancer treatments that patients may find it difficult to get off the couch on some days, much less head outside for a walk. But staying physically active is important for weight management regardless of whether weight loss or gain is desired because regular movement helps maintain lean muscle mass.
We really want patients to hold on to their muscle mass because research has told us there are poorer prognoses for patients who lose their lean body mass at a very rapid rate, Ms. Stella says.
If youre looking for a class, take a look at the fitness and yoga classes on offer at MSKs Bendheim Integrative Medicine Center. Anyone can join.
How To Maximize The Benefits Of Hrt
Its essential to note that HRT isnt a miracle drug. Your hormone replacement drugs arent going to counteract a diet thats high in calories and low in nutrients. HRT wont dramatically increase your metabolism so that you can lose weight without even trying.
You have to combine HRT with a healthy diet and active lifestyle to obtain the maximum benefits. Make sure that youre consuming ample protein, and avoid processed carbohydrates.
Not sure if your portions are in line with your needs? Consider meeting with a dietician who can help you understand the size of a healthy portion. They can also offer guidance about your caloric and macronutrient needs.
Many women struggle with exercising enough as they get older. They might feel tired and experience an overall decrease in energy.
Look for small ways to add additional movement to your day. A short walk a few times a day adds up. If you arent already, add strength training to your exercise regimen.
Women tend to lose muscle mass as they get older, in part due to their decrease in activity. As you lose muscle mass, your metabolism will decrease. Per pound, muscle burns more calories than fat.
Strength training helps you retain your muscle mass. Aim to strength train at least a few times a week.
Dont feel like youre restricted to lighter weights. Heavier weights are much more effective at increasing your amount of muscle.
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Impact Of Hormone Therapy On Weight And Girth Changes
lists the mean changes between baseline and last on-study measurement of weight, girths, and girth ratios for all women randomized to each treatment assignment. Although the differences between the unopposed estrogen arm and placebo tended to be slightly larger than between the three opposed estrogen arms and placebo, this trend was minor and statistically unimportant. When analyzed across follow-up, the types of progestin regimens assessed in the PEPI trial had little impact on changes in weight, girth, or girth ratios. No differences among the four active interventions reached statistical significance: weight, P = 0.74 waist, P = 0.53 hip, P = 0.80 and waist to hip ratio, P = 0.90. Because of this, results are presented for women grouped by active vs. placebo therapy.
Women randomized to active therapy gained less weight than women randomized to placebo . As indicated in , there was little mean change in average weight in the combined hormone treatment groups during the first year these women gained an average ± se of 0.02 ± 0.14 kg. Women randomized to placebo therapy had an average gain of 0.81 ± 0.32 kg over the first year. After this first year, however, both groups gained approximately the same amount of weight . The differences in 3-yr weight gains between women assigned to active vs. placebo hormones were not significantly affected by baseline body mass index .
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Roles Of Other Factors In Weight And Girth Changes
shows the mean change in weight from baseline to the last measurement of PEPI participants by treatment assignment in subgroups defined by age, ethnicity, smoking status, alcohol intake, and physical activity. Included in this table are P values from regression analyses for assessing relationships between weight change and each baseline characteristic. Of the factors besides treatment assignment, only age , overall physical activity , leisure physical activity , and work physical activity had statistically significant univariable associations with weight gain. Similar analyses were performed for hysterectomy status, years since menopause, and prior postmenopausal hormone therapy, which did not have statistically significant associations with changes in weight or girths.
The forward regression algorithm used to develop a multivariable predictor model indicated that hormone treatment , older age , and greater activity were each independently associated with less weight gain. In addition, an independent negative association of weight gain with alcohol consumption was of marginal statistical significance in the multivariable model. Ethnicity, hysterectomy status, time since menopause, smoking status, prior hormone therapy, and individual activity domains were not significantly associated with weight gain after controlling for these other factors.
Mean changes in waist and hip girths for participants grouped according to baseline characteristics
Less Common Types Of Hormone Therapy
Some other types of hormone therapy that were used more often in the past, but are rarely given now include:
- Megestrol acetate , a progesterone-like drug
- Androgens , like testosterone
These might be options if other forms of hormone therapy are no longer working, but they can often cause side effects.
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Possible Side Effects Of Ais
The most common side effects of AIs are:
- Hot flashes
- Bone and joint pain
- Muscle pain
AIs tend to have side effects different from tamoxifen. They donât cause uterine cancers and very rarely cause blood clots. They can, however, cause muscle pain and joint stiffness and/or pain. The joint pain may be similar to a feeling of having arthritis in many different joints at one time. Options for treating this side effect include, stopping the AI and then switching to a different AI, taking a medicine called duloxetine , or routine exercise with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . But the muscle and joint pain has led some women to stop treatment. If this happens, most doctors recommend using tamoxifen to complete 5 to 10 years of hormone treatment.
Because AIs drastically lower the estrogen level in women after menopause, they can also cause bone thinning, sometimes leading to osteoporosis and even fractures. If you are taking an AI, your bone density may be tested regularly and you may also be given bisphosphonates or denosumab , to strengthen your bones.
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Hrt For Weight Loss In Women: How It Works
SynergenX Testosterone & Weight Loss
Mon Dec 17, 2018
Who wants more belly fat, hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and irritability? That would be no one. But women going through menopause experience these symptoms, which can last for years, as their menstrual cycles end. As hormones shift, specifically, a decrease of estrogen, many women gain fat around their bellies and even notice muscle loss.
But theres hope for relief from the increased belly fat and weight gain that comes along with menopause. A recent study of postmenopausal women, ages 50 to 80, found that those who took hormones had significantly lower levels of belly fat than women who did not take hormones.
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Gain Insight On How Hormone Replacement Therapy Can Help You Lose Weight
Weight loss becomes much more difficult as you get older. No matter how much you diet and exercise, the scale refuses to budge. This can be extremely frustrating, but its important to know that its not your fault. Your hormones are to blame. More specifically, a hormone imbalance has affected the way that your body regulates your weight. But you dont have to bear this heavy burden once you realize that losing weight begins by gaining hormones.
What Can Be Done To Minimize The Weight Gain Caused By Menopause
Start adopting healthy lifestyle practices before menopause by exercising and eating well, so those good habits are in place. Aging is associated with changes in metabolism, decreased muscle and increased body fat. We are often less physically active the older we get, which is a large contributor to weight gain. Weight tends to deposit around the midsection, which can increase the risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer . In addition to the negative impact on health, weight gain often leads to poor self-image and depression.
It is important to your overall health and well-being to adhere to a healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity. A healthy diet includes watching portion control and limiting amounts of sugar, processed carbohydrates, fat and processed foods. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to help with weight loss, improve cognition and decrease the risk of dementia and osteoporosis, as well as improve heart health. Weight-bearing exercises such as walking, Pilates and yoga help maintain posture, balance and core strength.
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Menopause And Age Effect
Several studies describe an increased tendency toward weight gain in premenopausal women compared to postmenopausal women. However, inconsistencies in defining menopause in retrospective studies and the issue of chemotherapy-related amenorrhea complicate the interpretation of this effect on weight gain. Goodwin and colleagues identified the greatest weight gains in premenopausal women who experienced chemotherapy-associated amenorrhea and became postmenopausal.
When weight gain is assessed following the use of regimens less likely to cause chemotherapy-induced amenorrhea, younger age rather than menopausal status appears as a significant risk factor. Makari-Judson et al, employing recursive partitioning analysis found women younger than age 59 gained the most weight with no independent effect of menopausal status. Irwin and colleagues determined associations between weight gain and both younger age and postmenopausal status this was further refined as younger post-menopausal women gaining significantly more than older post menopausal women and women who developed treatment-associated menopause after diagnosis. Tredan and associates found no influence of menopausal status on weight gain.
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Board-certified gynecologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr. Otto Huertas is an expert in hormone replacement therapy and can help you fully understand fluctuating hormone levels and their effects on your body.
If youd like to get started on the road to better health by undergoing hormone level testing, nows the time to schedule a consultation at CosmeticGyn Center with Dr. Huertas in Dallas, TX.
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Types Of Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are several types of hormone replacement therapies available:
Estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy includes a synthetic form of estrogen. This form can increase your risk of getting endometrial cancer if you still have a uterus. Healthcare providers dont recommend using estrogen-only HRT if you have any of the following medical conditions:
- Heart attack
Progestin-only hormone replacement therapy contains a synthetic form of progesterone. Your doctor may prescribe both estrogen-only and progestin-only HRT to decrease your risk of endometrial cancer. This form of HRT causes many of the same side effects as estrogen-only medication.
Estrogen and progestin combination
This form of hormone replacement therapy provides you with synthetic estrogen and progesterone in one dose. It can be a good option for individuals who prefer to take their HRT all at once. Theres no estrogen or progestin HRT that leads to weight loss or weight gain.
Hormones And Weight Gain: How To Fix The Hormones That Control Your Weight
Did you know that your weight is directly related to your hormones? This is a fact many of us forget as we travel along the often slow and frustrating road to weight loss. To maintain a weight thats healthy for our unique bodily makeup, a delicate balance of hormones is required. If certain hormones are off-kilter, weight gain often results.
In order to lose weight and keep it off we must understand the intricate inner workings of our many hormones. Once we understand the relationship between hormones and weight gain, we can take the proper steps to balance these hormones and lose weight in a sustainable, healthy way.
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Hormonal imbalance can undoubtedly wreak havoc on a persons overall health, happiness, and day-to-day life. From weight gain to chronic fatigue, the frustrating symptoms of unbalanced hormone levels seem virtually endless. If you are looking for a reliable, effective, and long-lasting hormone solution in Terre Haute or Carmel, IN, call Body Bar MD to schedule your private consultation with sought-after wellness expert and board-certified physician Dr. Christy Watson today. We look forward to helping you get the relief you deserve with BioTE bioidentical hormone replacement therapy!
Exercise Muscle Mass And Weight Gain
Changing your diet and being more physically active may help you to maintain your normal weight.
Physical activity can help to maintain muscle strength, but it needs to be a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise.
Aerobic exercise is any exercise that makes your heart and lungs work faster to provide more oxygen to the muscles for example walking or gardening.
Resistance training includes weight training and swimming. You have to use your muscles to push against the weights or water, which helps to strengthen them.
Physical activity also helps to control your weight. You dont have to go to the gym, you can build it into your life. For example, you could get off the bus the stop before you need to, do some gardening or join a walking group. Some hospitals organise exercise sections for cancer patients. Ask your specialist nurse if this is available.
You should aim to be physically active for 30 minutes 5 days a week. Your doctor may check your cholesterol and heart health before you start an exercise plan. This is important if you have conditions such as diabetes or you are overweight.
Hormone treatment may lower your bone density, increasing the risk of fractures. Talk to your doctor if this could be a problem for you.
Eating a balanced healthy diet can help you to maintain a healthy weight. It can also help you lose or put it on if you need to.
This page is due for review. We will update this as soon as possible.
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