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Obesity A Major Cause of Death for Women that Survive Cancer

Monday, July 1st, 2013

A diagnosis of cancer can put a person’s entire life on hold. Fortunately, treatments for cancer, and especially for women’s cancers, are becoming increasingly better at helping women prolong their lives and even enter into remission. This is wonderful news for both doctors and patients that have to deal with this horrible and tragic disease. However, as the rate of women who survive cancer increases, alarming statistics about what can happen after surviving this disease are coming to light.

It has been suggested that one of the main killers for women that survive cancer is obesity. Hormonal changes in women who have received oophorectomies can severely impact their ability to maintain a healthy weight, and in some cases can cause women who have never had weight problems to face weight gain. Additionally, many medicines such as steroids that are used to treat cancer can cause weight gain. This does not even begin to take into account the many emotional and mood changes faced by women who have survived cancer, which can also be a major contributor to weight gain.

So what can a doctor such as myself do about it? How can those who have survived cancer move on with their lives and continue to preserve their health? One study suggests that it is extremely important for those who have been diagnosed with cancer and those who have entered remission to discuss the problem of obesity and how it can factor into a woman’s health after she has begun to recover from such a devastating disease. It is also important for women who have survived cancer to seek the support of other survivors that may be able to help them understand what they face after remission and recovery.

Discussing the other factor surrounding a diagnosis of cancer can be just as important as discussing the disease itself. Whether an individual is a doctor, a patient, or even a close friend or family member of the person who is recovering, the “what comes next” dialogue is an essential part of preparing for a woman’s long-term health prospects. Women should not be surviving cancer only to face further health complications, especially if steps can be taken early on to prevent these issues. Whether it is due to hormonal fluctuations, medication, or an issue such as depression, weight gain can be prevented. The entire community needs to work together to put an end to this growing problem.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.