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How Weight Loss Surgery Can Reduce Cancer Risk

Last updated: June 1, 2023

If patients can achieve their ideal healthy weight with weight loss surgery, they can also reduce their risk of obesity-related malignancies.

Dr. Joyce Philip, Oncologist, ThedaCare Cancer Care

Consulting with the expert team through the ThedaCare Bariatrics program can help assure not only that people will achieve their weight loss goals, but also significantly improve their health.

Dr. Kevin Wasco, General Surgeon and Co-Director of ThedaCare Bariatrics

The value of weight loss surgery in helping people lose significant weight is well-established. On average, individuals will lose a total of 125 to 150 pounds within a year or later after undergoing surgery. But the decision to undergo surgery is not just about losing weight.

The health benefits of substantial weight loss are clear, and patients see significant outcomes when it comes to resolving other health issues, says Dr. Kevin Wasco, a General Surgeon and Co-Director of the ThedaCare Bariatrics program. That includes helping people reduce their risk for certain types of cancer.

Studies have shown that weight loss surgery can lead to a reduced risk of developing hormone-related cancers, including ovarian, endometrial, and post-menopausal breast cancers. Recently, researchers have found that the surgery also may help decrease the risk of developing non-hormonal cancers by almost 50%.

“Obesity has been linked to several cancers, some of which include breast, colorectal, pancreas and uterine,” says Dr. Joyce Philip, an Oncologist with ThedaCare Cancer Care. “If patients can achieve their ideal healthy weight with weight loss surgery, they can also reduce their risk of obesity-related malignancies.”

A study analyzing the data of more than 18 million patients found that Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric sleeve resection procedures were effective in reducing the risk of developing certain cancers. These include liver, pancreatic, esophageal, gastric, colorectal, lung and kidney cancers.

Improved Health

“Excess weight contributes to serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea,” says Dr. Wasco. “This surgery — and the subsequent weight loss — has been shown to significantly reduce risks from these obesity-related illnesses.”

Within 24 months following weight loss surgery, most patients see resolution from type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Many no longer need expensive medications for these conditions. They can also either delay or avoid joint surgeries, which often have a long recovery time.

Beyond that, three-quarters of patients maintain their weight loss five years after surgery.

“When looking at the success of weight loss surgery, we can point to improvements in a patient’s quality of life and overall health. People can extend their lives by eliminating other serious illnesses,” says Dr. Wasco, who is also a ThedaCare Cancer Care committee chairman and has led the program’s Commission on Cancer accreditation since 2007.

Expert Care

The fully accredited ThedaCare Bariatrics program, recognized as a Bariatric Center of Excellence by Optum Health, prioritizes patient health and safety, says Dr. Raymond Georgen, a General Surgeon and Co-Director of the ThedaCare Bariatrics program. That includes pre-operative health exams to reduce complications such as blood clots and continued monitoring following surgery.

“We offer a 100% robotic surgical weight loss option, which means patients experience less pain and need fewer medications. They also have shorter hospital stays and fewer complications,” Dr. Georgen says. “You won’t be on your own after surgery, either, as we continue to work with you on your weight-loss journey.”

The comprehensive, supportive approach to weight loss through the ThedaCare Bariatrics program leads to better outcomes. Individuals work with a team that includes nurses, behavioral health specialists, dietitians, exercise physiologists and care managers.

Getting Started

“It takes courage to decide to fight morbid obesity and put yourself on the pathway to health,” Dr. Georgen says. “It’s one of the most significant decisions a person can make. These surgeries can significantly improve people’s quality of life by reducing risks of serious illnesses like cancer. We’re here to support our patients in pursuing better health.”

People who qualify for weight loss surgery include:

  • Those with a BMI 35 or over and another significant health risk factor — such as type 2 diabetes of sleep apnea*
  • Those with a BMI of 40 or over*

*Please note, BMI criteria may vary based on individuals’ insurance policies for weight loss surgery.

The ThedaCare Bariatrics program also offers non-surgical weight loss, which involves the placement of a temporary saline-filled balloon in the stomach.

No matter which solution people choose, the ThedaCare Bariatrics team is there to help.

“Individuals fighting morbid obesity may first attempt to manage their weight on their own, without assistance,” Dr. Wasco says. “Consulting with the expert team through the ThedaCare Bariatrics program can help assure not only that people will achieve their weight loss goals, but also significantly improve their health.”

Take the first steps toward improving your health

Tags: Bariatric surgery cancer risk gastric sleeve resection Roux-en-Y gastric bypass ThedaCare Bariatrics Weight Loss Surgery

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