Breast cancer treatment and weight loss

When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, consider yourself at war with the disease.  Once you’ve gotten over the shock of your diagnosis and have selected your healthcare team, you need to figure out how and what you are going to eat while you are on this journey.

Maintaining your weight while undergoing cancer treatment can be a challenge. However, it can be a very important part of how you feel and how well you can continue your normal activities while you are undergoing treatment.

Weight changes during breast cancer treatment

Excessive weight loss can hinder your ability to complete your treatment regimen, may lead to a poorer outcome and quality of life, and can increase your chance of recurrence.  Excessive weight gain during treatment is not a good thing either.

The problem is that it may be difficult to eat during some aspects of your treatment due to side effects and other issues. However, depending on your circumstances, you will often need to eat A FEW MORE CALORIES and MORE PROTEIN than you did before the diagnosis, just when you don’t really feel like eating. STAYING HYDRATED with extra water is important too (ask your doctor if you have any fluid restrictions).

If you are suffering from certain side effects, you may not want to eat much, but with careful planning and monitoring it is possible to maintain your weight.  

How much more?

Let’s make this easy by using an example.  If you are a healthy woman and weigh approximately 150 pounds and are moderately active, depending on your circumstances, you typically need to eat around 1,400-1,700 calories per day and 50 – 60 grams of protein to maintain your weight. To put this in perspective, 3 oz. of chicken breast provides around 140 calories and 26 grams of protein, without any sauce or additions.

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, depending on your specific situation, the same 150 pound woman may need to eat around 1,700 – 1,900 calories per day and 75 – 100 grams of protein while on treatment. If you have other conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, obesity/overweight, or diabetes, be sure to consult with your physician and a qualified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist about the right amount of calories and protein for you.

How do you know if you are eating the right amount?

Weigh yourself every few days.  Your weight will fluctuate due to the effects of some of the medications you take during your breast cancer treatment. After a chemo treatment, it will typically be up a few pounds due to the extra fluid you receive during the infusion.  However, if the overall trend is either up or down, speak with your physician, and find out what you can do to maintain a “healthy” weight.

Have a question for me?

Give me a call at (609) 252-0877.


Hi, I am

Barbara Spalding MS, RDN, Culinary Dietitian

As a dietitian and world traveler, I love bold flavors — in food and in life. 14 years ago, I fell down the rabbit hole into Breast Cancer Wonderland. Since then, I’ve learned to cook differently while savoring the pleasures of food and companionship. I’ve built a resilient new life and a bold new kitchen. Let me show you the flavors of the world.
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