Weight gain

Women living with and being treated for breast cancer may find that they gain weight due to a number of reasons.

  • Women may find that they are less active and their diets have changed as result of their cancer diagnosis or the side effects and challenges of treatment.
  • Treatments such as hormonal therapy and steroids may cause weight gain.
  • Other treatments, including chemotherapy and hormonal therapy, may bring on the menopause, which can also cause weight gain.  

This can be a surprising and distressing situation for many women, since it is often expected that living with cancer will cause weight loss. Gaining weight can be a particular struggle for women who are already experiencing a loss of confidence and self-esteem relating to their body image.

Losing weight in a healthy way can help women to feel more in control and more like themselves.

Tips for managing weight gain

Aim to lose weight in a slow and steady way by making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle which will be easy to keep up.

Make healthy food choices

Don’t starve yourself! Eat a healthy, balanced diet including lots of fruit and vegetables. Try swapping white breads, pastas and cereals for brown and wholegrain alternatives. The additional fibre will make you feel fuller for longer. If you are looking for a snack fix between meals, try dried fruit, nuts or unsalted popcorn.

Limit treats and alcohol

Cut back on sweet treats and fatty foods. Reducing your alcohol intake or cutting it out completely can also really help with weight loss. A pint of beer, for example has as many calories as a slice of pizza and a large glass of wine is as calorific as an ice cream. 

Increase your physical activity

Build up the amount of exercise you do gradually. Try and do things you enjoy, such as dancing, swimming and walking, so that this doesn’t feel like a chore. It is best to speak to your GP or breast cancer nurse first before increasing the amount of exercise you do or starting a new form of exercise.

You are also likely to notice positive changes in your mood and mental well-being with these healthy lifestyle changes.

Your GP or breast cancer nurse will be able to provide you with a range of guidance on how to lose weight and exercise safely and healthily when living with secondary breast cancer. They may be able to refer you for specialist support.

Please also see our Healthy living section for further advice.

Page last updated: April 2020