Weight gain and quality of life in women treated with adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer

Oncol Nurs Forum. 2001 May;28(4):675-84.


Purpose/objectives: To document weight gain in women treated with adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer and to examine the relationship of weight gain and perceived quality of life (QOL).

Design: Descriptive, correlational study.

Setting: Data collected in three settings: an ambulatory oncology service of a university teaching hospital, a private oncology office, and a university-affiliated health clinic, all located in southern New England.

Sample: Women with stage I or II breast cancer with primary treatment of simple or modified mastectomy or breast-conserving surgery with radiotherapy scheduled to receive adjuvant chemotherapy.

Methods: Weight data collected through retrospective chart review. QOL data collected prospectively using the Linear Analog Self Assessment Symptom Distress Scale for Breast Cancer and the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy for Breast Cancer Scale.

Main research variables: QOL and weight gain of five pounds or more.

Findings: One year after treatment began, 62.5% of the study participants experienced weight gain (X = 10.44 lb), with a range of 5-27 pounds. After two and three years, 68% and 40%, respectively, maintained a clinically significant weight gain. A greater weight gain occurred over time in premenopausal women. No correlation between overall QOL and weight gain existed, but selected items were significantly positively correlated with weight gain.

Conclusions: This study documented a significant weight gain in women treated with adjuvant chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. A large percentage of those women maintained this weight gain. Women premenopausal at diagnosis had a greater tendency to gain weight. Although weight gain was not correlated with overall QOL it was distressing for these women.

Implications for nursing practice: Nurses can incorporate the possibility of weight gain into the plan of care for women with breast cancer. Nurses should include this information in education about side effects of treatment and in the ongoing nursing assessment of patients with breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / rehabilitation
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • New England
  • Quality of Life*
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • Weight Gain*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Tamoxifen