Wesley targets obesity link to cancer

Updated: Jun. 7, 2017 at 3:34 PM CDT
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PINE BELT (WDAM) - One Pine Belt hospital is battling breast cancer by fighting obesity.

Merit Health Wesley in Hattiesburg has gained accreditation in bariatric surgery. This means procedures  that achieve weight loss. What does this have to do with breast cancer? Medical researchers have found a link between excessive weight and an elevated risk of numerous types of cancer including this one.

"There's multiple studies that are showing that post-menopausal women with a higher BMI, or body mass index, that shows that they're obese have a 20 to 40 percent increase in their overall risk compared to women that are of normal weight," says Dr. Wesley Girod, the bariatric director at Wesley.

He performs two procedures, both of which reduce the amount of food that a person can take in.

"The sleeve [gastrectomy] takes off a segment of your stomach and what it does is, it reduces the size of your stomach to about the size of a large banana. Interestingly, part of the stomach that we take out reduces people's desire to eat."

Mississippi has one of the highest rates of obesity in the country. Dr. Girod says this surgical solution has a very good track record.

"It's extremely successful," he says. "Currently we're seeing 80 to 90 percent success rates, if they stay with our program and listen to how we'd like them to eat."

And who makes a good candidate for bariatric surgery?

"People with a BMI of 35 to 40 if they have high blood pressure, sleep apnea, diabetes, or arthritis; and then people of a BMI of 40 or greater," Dr. Girod says.

Exactly how obesity may affect cancer risk is a question with several possible answers. according to the National Cancer Institute. A lot of very smart people are working to figure this out.

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