Living with cancer blog

Healthy weight important for cancer survivors

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. January 7, 2012

We've been hearing a lot lately about the importance of maintaining a healthy weight for cancer survivors. Excess weight and obesity can make a difference in outcomes for cancer patients.

The research is strong for a few cancers in particular, including breast, colon, uterine, kidney and esophageal cancers. Extra pounds can boost the harmful effects of hormones such as estrogen and insulin and may cause excess inflammation in the body.

We have much to learn about how excess weight influences the development and recurrence of cancers. However, considering that excess weight can also increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and mobility problems, if you're a survivor and overweight, it might be time to make a few changes.

As a cancer survivor, your weight may fluctuate quite a bit — especially during treatment. Steroids, lack of sleep, and stress can all have an effect on weight. It's best to wait until your treatment is completed to make long-term changes that are needed to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Here are a few ideas to try:

  • Be active every day — try walking with a friend for 30 minutes, or check out classes at a local gym. Yoga, dancing, stretching can all make a difference.
  • Make small changes in your diet — add more fruits and vegetables, choose healthy fats (omega-3 and olive oil), lean meats and whole grains. 
  • Keep a journal of your activity and eating habits.
  • Find a friend who also wants to make healthy changes and do this together.
  • Set goals and track your progress.
  • Celebrate your achievements with something special just for you!

I plan to check in with you regularly on this topic. I'd love to hear from you. Feel free to post ideas to add to this list. What's worked for you?


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

Jan. 07, 2012