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Experiences with Weight Change in African-American Breast Cancer Survivors


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Chanita Hughes Halbert, PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 3535 Market Street, Suite 4100, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA, or e-mail:


Abstract:  Although weight gain is a common side effect of breast cancer treatment, limited empirical data are available on how African-American breast cancer survivors react to changes in their weight following diagnosis and treatment. The purpose of this study was to explore psychological and behavioral reactions to weight change in African-American breast cancer survivors. We conducted a qualitative study to explore reactions to weight change following diagnosis and treatment in 34 African-American breast cancer survivors. Forty-seven percent of women reported gaining weight, 32% reported weight loss, and 21% reported no changes in their weight. Regardless of whether women gained or lost weight, these changes were viewed as stressors that caused psychological distress and health concerns. However, some women had positive reactions to weight loss, especially if they had been heavy prior to diagnosis. Women exercised and changed their dietary behaviors following treatment. Despite this, women reported being frustrated with not being able to control changes in their weight. These results suggest that changes in weight may be a critical component of breast cancer survivorship in African-American women. It may be important to provide African-American breast cancer survivors with information about the causes and implications of weight change and strategies for weight control after treatment as part of their follow-up care.