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Weight Management and Breast Cancer

Maintaining a healthy weight is important, both during and after breast cancer treatment. People with breast cancer can gain or lose weight during treatment, depending on a wide variety of factors. Keeping an eye on your weight during treatment will make it easier to achieve and maintain a healthy weight as a breast cancer survivor.

Weight gain, in particular, is associated with higher risk of recurrence and negative clinical and quality of life outcomes [i]. Weight gain and higher body mass index (“BMI”) during treatment can be affected by an earlier onset of menopause, decreased physical activity, increased caloric intake and/or side effects of common medications. It is important to speak with your physician and clinical team about the side effects of your treatment and if you are concerned about your weight status.


Are you overweight?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is one common method used to measure overweight and obesity. BMI is a measure of body fat based on a person’s weight and height.

BMI = Weight (in pounds) ÷ [Height (in inches) × Height (in inches)] × 703

However, BMI may not be an accurate measure for everyone, including people who have more muscle mass, like athletes; seniors with less muscle mass; or for people under 5 feet tall.

Staying within the healthy range throughout life is important for lowering your cancer risk. A BMI of < 18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5-24.9 is considered normal, 25.0-29.9 is considered overweight, 30.0-39.9 is considered obese and >40 is considered morbid obesity.


Eating for weight management

Controlling calorie intake from foods and beverages is fundamental to achieving and attaining calorie balance. Understanding calorie needs, knowing food sources of calories, and recognizing associations between foods and beverages and higher or lower body weight are all important concepts when building an eating pattern that promotes calorie balance and weight management.

Many Americans are unaware of how many calories they need each day or the calorie content of foods and beverages. The total number of calories a person needs each day varies depending on a number of factors, including a person’s age, gender, height, weight, and level of physical activity. In addition, a desire to lose, maintain, or gain weight affects how many calories should be consumed.

The best way to assess whether you are eating the appropriate number of calories is to monitor body weight. Adjust your calorie intake and participation in physical activity based the changes in your weight over time. A calorie deficit of 500 calories or more per day is a common initial goal for weight loss for adults. However, maintaining a smaller deficit can have a meaningful influence on body weight over time. The effect of a calorie deficit on weight does not depend on how the deficit is produced—by reducing calorie intake, increasing physical activity, or both.


Take control of your weight

  • Be aware of your food intake and energy expenditure
  • Be mindful of portion control
  • Include regular physical activity if approved by your medical team
  • Prepare healthy meals rather than relying on convenience foods
  • Make healthier choices when shopping for groceries or dining out
  • Set manageable and achievable health goals to maintain motivation and maximize success


[i] Playdon, M.C; Bracken, M.B.; Sanft, T.B.; etal. Weight gain after breast cancer diagnosis and all-cause mortality: systematic review and meta-analysis. 2015. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. V107(12)
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