CANCER COMPLICATION: Weight Factors Into Treatment

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A cancer diagnosis can be scary, especially when you have another complication. Currently, a third of American adults are considered obese. And, when overweight people become patients, it can be difficult for doctors to find the right treatment.

Carol Kuhns is recovering from surgery after finding out she had endometrial cancer a couple months ago. She said, "When I got off the phone, I did shed a tear or two."

The cancer is typically treated with surgery. But, her weight was a concern, possibly taking the traditional operation out of consideration. Talking about her first physician, she said, "He didn't say it wouldn't be, but he said probably because of my weight it wouldn't be, so I think perhaps their experience had been for someone who is overweight or heavyset that surgery wasn't always the best course."

Kuhns has a bad hip, making it difficult to get around, so she didn't like the other option of a six week course of radiation five days a week. She turned to surgeon Carl Christie at the Mercy Cancer Center Gynecologic Oncology. Dr. Christie said, "What we did was a robotic hysterectomy done with a Da Vinci robot."

Dr. Christie says robotic surgery is becoming more common as patients ask for the minimally invasive surgery and as doctors become more comfortable using it. He said it's an option for patients with a high body mass index. Recovery time is cut in half, since doctors only have to make small incisions instead of cutting open a patient. He says, "We have done quite a bit of patients in that weight range."

Six days after her surgery, Kuhns said she doesn't feel any pain from the procedure. Her biggest problem remains getting around. She says, "I don't know why it hasn't gotten through my head yet at my age that weight is a problem in many ways. It makes it harder for the people taking care of you, and it's harder for you to take care of yourself. It's something that really needs to be addressed."

Kuhns is addressing her weight. She plans to start walking more after leaving the hospital and find ways to live a healthier life. She said, "So I can be around for hopefully great grandkids. I have grandkids."

Obesity contributes to endometrial cancer, so Dr. Christie says the obesity problem really needs to be treated to help prevent these types of cancers.