Weight control needs and experiences among rural breast cancer survivors

Psychooncology. 2011 Oct;20(10):1069-75. doi: 10.1002/pon.1828. Epub 2010 Aug 23.


Objective: Rural women are understudied in research on weight control among breast cancer survivors despite having higher obesity rates than their urban counterparts placing them at higher risk for recurrence. The purpose of this survey study was to describe weight status and methods used for weight control in rural breast cancer survivors and to examine psychosocial factors in this population associated with weight change since breast cancer diagnosis.

Methods: Women treated for breast cancer within the past 6 years at one of three rural Cancer Centers were mailed a survey with a cover letter from their oncology provider.

Results: Survey respondents (n=918, 83% response rate) were 96% White non-Hispanic, on average 3.2 years from treatment, and 11% reported metastatic disease. Among respondents without known metastatic disease, 68% were overweight or obese, 37% were obese, and 25% reported a weight gain exceeding 5 kg since diagnosis. Among the overweight/obese women, 61% were currently attempting weight loss, and the most common weight loss method was dieting on one's own without assistance. Psychosocial factors associated with weight gain since diagnosis included depression, fear of cancer recurrence, diminished physical strength, body image concerns, relationship changes, and financial stressors.

Conclusions: The high response rate indicates a general interest in body weight issues among rural BrCa survivors, and the findings highlight the need for weight control programs in this population. Findings also indicate that factors related to poor adjustment to breast cancer are associated with weight gain among rural women.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kansas
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Psychology
  • Rural Population
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Weight Loss