Reasons for dietary change and information and support needs in women who gain weight following chemotherapy for breast cancer — ASN Events

Reasons for dietary change and information and support needs in women who gain weight following chemotherapy for breast cancer (#282)

Alastair Kwok 1 2 , Anna Boltong 2 3 , Tracey Dryden 2 4 , Claire Palermo 1
  1. Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Monash University, Notting Hill, Victoria, Australia
  2. Cancer Allied Health, Nursing and Support, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. Cancer Information and Support Service, Cancer Council Victoria, Carlton, Victoria, Australia
  4. Support Services, The Leukaemia Foundation, Australia


Weight gain is common but poorly understood in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. Overweight and obesity are associated with other comorbidities, reduced self-esteem and an increased risk of cancer recurrence. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences, dietary information and support needs of women who gain weight during chemotherapy treatment.


This study used a qualitative approach within a phenomenological framework. Women from three breast cancer clinics in Melbourne, Australia, who were already participating in a study on taste changes during chemotherapy, were invited to be interviewed. Eligibility for inclusion was a gain in body weight between the commencement of anthracycline or taxane containing chemotherapy, and two months after its completion. Semi-structured interviews explored changes in diet, physical activity patterns, weight changes and sources of dietary information and support. Thematic analysis of the interview data was performed.


Seventeen women were interviewed. Three key themes emerged from the data. (i) Undesirable dietary and physical activity changes associated with chemotherapy (ii) Weight and dietary changes were surprising and concerning (iii) Inadequate dietary and weight management information and support received. Specific and practical advice regarding healthy eating and weight control was raised as a crucial support need for women with breast cancer from the outset of chemotherapy treatment and throughout the survivorship trajectory.


This study has described the practical and informational dietary support needs of women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer. There are currently gaps in information and support provision  after diagnosis in the areas of weight management, chemotherapy nutrition side-effects and healthy eating. Women are unprepared for the weight gain experienced during treatment and lack specific information from their treating team on  how to manage this. The routine provision of dietetic services after diagnosis may be an effective option in meeting these substantial support gaps.