It’s one of the most popular surgeries that help people lose weight. Bariatric surgery has been found to help decrease the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
“Bariatric surgery has come a long way,” Dr. Frank Chae, a bariatric surgeon and the medical director of the Bariatric Surgery Program at Sky Ridge Medical Center, said.
Even after over 8,000 procedures over the past few decades, Chae is still learning more about the benefits of bariatric surgery.
“Initially, people elected to have bariatric surgery for weight loss, and…we as physicians didn't quite understand the science that came with that,” he said. “We know obesity is a disease, and bariatric surgery attacks the disease process.”
A recent study led by experts at Cleveland Clinic found surgeries like gastric bypass and gastric banding can help lower the risk of developing obesity-associated cancer by 32%.
Doctor Ali Aminian co-authored the study, which analyzed 30,000 patients over 17 years.
“We found that patients need to lose a large amount of weight, over 20 to 25%, to see a beneficial change in the cancer risk,” Aminian, the director of Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, said.
It’s a risk Elaine Brimage II saw in her life, which pushed her to make the decision for surgery.
“About seven years ago, my father passed away from lung cancer, and I felt like at that time I really needed to make a lifestyle change for myself. And in that, I lost some weight,” Brimage, a bariatric surgery patient, said.
Soon after her father’s fight with cancer, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer. It was removed, but she is still actively being treated for bladder cancer.
“I've had my tumors return three times now in my bladder, so I've been in active treatment since then,” Brimage said.
She had previously had surgery for a bariatric sleeve, just one of the many lifestyle changes she made.
“Once your mind accepts that it is a mindset, you have to change,” she explained. “It is lifelong. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not an antidote, so to speak.”
The study found that after bariatric surgery, patients saw a 48% lower risk of dying from cancer.
The surgery has its benefits. “Major insurances…will cover the surgery because of the long-term benefits,” Chae said.
However, it may not be for everyone.
“As 40% of our adults suffer from obesity, we can't operate on 40% of the population,” Chae said.
But it’s a change that could make all the difference for people like Brimage.
“It really is just a tool to help you on a journey to a healthier lifestyle,” she said.