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Dietary experiences and support needs of women who gain weight following chemotherapy for breast cancer



Weight gain is common but poorly understood in women receiving chemotherapy for breast cancer. Overweight and obesity are associated with other co-morbidities, 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 to explore the experiences of women from three Melbourne breast cancer clinics. Those who gained weight during the period of enrolment in a cohort study of chemotherapy-related taste changes were invited to participate in this qualitative interview study. Eligibility for inclusion was a gain in body weight between the commencement of chemotherapy and 2 months after its completion. Semi-structured interviews explored changes in diet, physical activity patterns, weight changes, dietary information and support needs and sources. Thematic analysis of the interview data was performed.


Seventeen women were interviewed. Three key themes emerged from the following data: (i) undesirable impacts of cancer treatment on diet and physical activity, (ii) surprise and concern associated with changes to weight and diet and (iii) insufficient dietary information and support.


This study has described the practical and informational dietary support needs of women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and reasons for dietary change. There may be gaps in information and support provision after diagnosis in the areas of weight management, nutrition-related side effects of chemotherapy and healthy eating. Models of dietetic practice and the provision of tailored dietary information should be explored.

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The authors wish to acknowledge (i) Tracey Dryden for her contribution to the interview guide and conducting the participant interviews and (ii) the important contribution of all patients who participated in interviews for this study.

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None of the authors have a conflict of interest to declare.

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Correspondence to Anna Boltong.

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The corresponding author has full control to the primary data associated with this study and can provide the journal with access to this data upon request for review.

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Kwok, A., Palermo, C. & Boltong, A. Dietary experiences and support needs of women who gain weight following chemotherapy for breast cancer. Support Care Cancer 23, 1561–1568 (2015).

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