Nutrition for the Person With Cancer During Treatment

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Weight gain

Some people find they do not lose weight during treatment. They may even gain weight. This is particularly true for those with breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer who are taking certain medicines or are getting hormone therapy or chemotherapy.

If you notice you are gaining weight, tell your doctor so you can find out what may be causing this change. Sometimes, you gain weight because certain cancer-fighting drugs cause your body to hold on to extra fluid. If this is the case, your doctor may ask you to talk with a registered dietitian for help with limiting the amount of salt you eat. This is important because salt might cause your body to hold extra water.

Many women with breast cancer gain weight during treatment. Because of this, many of the recommendations for breast cancer patients include a lower-fat, reduced-calorie diet much like those suggested for patients after cancer treatment has been completed. If you have any questions, talk to your health care team about the best diet for you.

Weight gain may also be the result of increased appetite and food intake and decreased physical activity. If this is the case and you want to stop gaining weight, here are some tips that can help.

What to do

  • Try to walk daily if you can and if it’s OK with your doctor.
  • Limit food portion sizes.
  • Include plant-based foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, and peas in your diet.
  • Eat poultry or fish and eat less red meat, and choose only lean red meats (lean beef, pork, or lamb trimmed of fat).
  • Choose low-fat dairy products (skim or 1% milk, light yogurt, reduced fat cheese).
  • Cut back on added butter, mayonnaise, sweets, and other extras.
  • Choose low-fat and low-calorie cooking methods (such as broiling and steaming).
  • Limit high-calorie snacks between meals.
  • Include activities that will help relieve your stress.
  • Talk to a registered dietitian for more guidance.

Last Medical Review: 06/09/2014
Last Revised: 06/09/2014