Ask the Nutritionist
Q: Is it safe to lose weight during treatment for breast cancer? If so, what is a safe amount?
Andrea, Bangor, Maine
A: It is safe and advisable for many women to lose weight during breast cancer treatment. Most breast cancer patients hear that they should not lose weight during treatment. They also hear that if they are overweight, weight loss is very important for survivorship. Maintaining a healthy weight during treatment and beyond is recommended for all breast cancer survivors.
Weight gain after diagnosis of early stage breast cancer is actually a risk factor for recurrence, and weight gain during breast cancer treatment is very common and certainly an unwanted side effect
You should meet with a Registered Dietitian who can help you understand your individual weight goals and assist you in designing a healthful eating plan. It is possible to eat all the important nutrients for maintaining health, yet at the same time promote a very gradual, medically appropriate weight loss, even during treatment.
It would certainly be detrimental to focus on treatment as a weight loss tool, although for many overweight cancer patients this has appeal.
Rather, focus more on daily exercise and consuming ample amounts of healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products that will provide important nutrients and may contribute to gradual, appropriate weight loss if a person is overweight without compromising the immune system.