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Clinical Challenges

Severe Obesity in Cancer Care

Erin Streu
ONF 2016, 43(3), 273-276 DOI: 10.1188/16.ONF.273-276

Increasing weight and body fat composition has an impact on cancer detection and staging. Obese women are less likely to engage in breast and cervical screening practices. Excessive adipose tissue makes physical assessment more difficult, and patients with a BMI greater than 35 kg/m2 may have deeper and wider pelvic structures, which make internal examinations problematic. A retrospective review of 324 primary surgical patients found that patients with a BMI greater than 40 kg/m2 are seven times less likely to undergo complete surgical staging for endometrial cancer compared with individuals with a BMI less than 40 kg/m2. In addition, healthcare provider bias against the need for screening, feelings of discomfort and embarrassment, as well as patient’s fears of guilt, humiliation, and shame pose significant barriers to addressing the issue of obesity in clinical care with patients and family members.

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