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Steroids and Weight Gain

Adrenocorticosteroids (steroids for short) are included as Hormonal Agents within Chemotherapeutic Agents in general.  These drugs are used in conjuction with some chemotherapy treatment, such as the Taxanes, Taxol and Taxotere; it is also used with symptomatic brain metastases and painful liver metastases.

Dexamethasone (Decadron, Hexadrol, and others) is an adrenocorticosteroid many ibc patients are prescribed.  Other adrenocorticosteroids include Prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, and others) and Methylprednisolone (Medrol and others).

Toxicity and side effects (usually associated with long-term therapy)*

  1. Peptic ulcer disease
  2. Sodium retention (edema, heart failure, hypertension)
  3. Potassium wasting (hypokalemia, alkalosis, muscle weakness)
  4. Glucose intolerance, accumulation of fat on trunk and face, weight gain
  5. Proximal myophathy (increased weakness in the thigh muscles, especially when climbing the stairs)
  6. Personality changes including euphoria and psychosis
  7. Osteoporosis, aseptic hip necrosis
  8. Thinning and fragility of the skin
  9. Suppression of the pituitary-adrenal axis
  10. Susceptibility to infection

*Manual of Clinical Oncology, 3rd edition, DA Casciato and BB Lowitz

Lee Smith, a well loved list member who sadly passed away in 2002, was kind enough to share her pictures that demonstrate the weight gain that can be associated with these drugs.  Lee wrote:

I gained over 40 pounds within a 2 month period on Decadron. I probably gained more than that over the time I was taking the steroids.

I felt like I had turned into "Pig Woman". I felt disgusting.

It's much better now. The weight itself has not all gone but the swollen unwieldy body is gone. In the two pictures below you'll see "Pig Woman" and what I look like now.  As the pig, I had no neck and my eyes were just little slits. My abdomen was so bloated I could hardly bend. I sort of rolled when I walked.

I feel half normal now! that's really pretty good because I was only ever half normal anyway! :)

It takes some time for the steroids to get out of our systems. Be patient.
Your hand in mine,

This web site is owned and operated by Pete Bevin. Please read the site disclaimer.
Last update: August 2001.