Correct Chemotherapy Dosage When Overweight or Obese

As a plus size woman who has struggled my entire life with weight issues, I have been reading with interest the research of Dr. Jennifer Griggs who is an Oncologist and Director of Breast Cancer Survivorship Program at the University of Michigan where I receive my care for breast cancer.  In October, 2013 her ongoing research and the research of others made international news.

Dr. Griggs has studied the topic of whether overweight and obese patients are getting the correct chemo dosages according to their BMI (body mass index) since 2005.  Very often patients are not getting appropriate dosages as this news story from CBS news outlines:

As a patient at the University of Michigan, I always knew I was getting a chemotherapy dosage based upon my weight.  There was a big ritual that was gone through every time I received chemotherapy.  I was weighed not once but twice on two different scales (every overweight patient’s nightmare), a little bit of a panic by your nurse if you lost 5 pounds, calculation by Oncology Nurse Practitioner of your chemo dosage according to current body weight and communication to the Pharmacy, and a rechecking of dosage by two RNs before the dosage was administered.  They calculated my individual dosage according to BMI, had their computer calculators out, checked, double checked and rechecked, and they did it out loud so I could hear it,  showed me the calculations and asked if I had any questions.

But apparently, according to Dr. Griggs’ research, this is not standard procedure every where in the world.  Often overweight and obese patients are shorted chemo dosages.    It makes logical sense that someone who weighs 250 pounds should get more chemo than someone who weighs 125 pounds.  However, giving the correct dosage according to weight can be problematic for overweight patient due to increased side effects.    Since I had a heart attack during Adriamycin Chemotherapy, my heart was at greater risk because of the higher dosage of drugs I received.  On the positive side, however, studies show that heavier patients are less likely to develop dangerous, low blood counts from cancer treatment, and that they clear chemo drugs more quickly from the body than thinner people do.

No matter what weight you are, make sure you ask your Oncologist the question about how your Chemotherapy dosage is calculated and what is the right dosage for you.  IF YOU DO NOT GET ANSWERS that feel right to you, seek a new Oncologist immediately.  Your life depends on it!______________________

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