More than just a weight loss surgery, a step towards cancer prevention

woman measuring waist
Written by Lindsey Morris

Despite what most people believe, bariatric and metabolic surgeries are not just for weight loss. Both surgeries are preventative measures against diabetes, hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. On top of being preventative for a patient getting these conditions, the surgeries can help them show signs of remission if they already have these conditions.

“I’m offering patients an opportunity to prevent themselves from ever getting sicker,” says Renee Hilton, MD. Hilton is the director of the Center for Obesity and Metabolism at Wellstar MCG Health and the Medical College of Georgia.

On top of those conditions, over 14 types of cancers are linked with increased risks of obesity and worst outcomes if you develop these cancers while obese.

However, metabolic and bariatric surgeries are not just a quick fix against these conditions, it takes hard work and dedication on both sides for it to be successful for the patients.

“You don’t just walk in one day and say ‘I want metabolic surgery’, says Hilton. “We have to talk about what led to this, why you have gained weight, let’s talk about disordered eating.”

There is an entire care team, including a psychologist and registered dietitians, who are there to work with the patient to figure out what their triggers and mental blocks are when it comes to food and weight loss. One cannot have the surgery and then jump back into their previous lifestyle and expect positive results. All patients have to go through a psychiatric clearance before they get the all-clear to have the surgery.


“So I think probably the most important conversation that I have with patients at that initial consultation is what do you want to get out of this? What’s your goal?” Hilton says.

Hilton encourages all of her patients to set non-scale-victory, or NSV, goals. These are things that patients really want to do, but feel like they cannot due to their weight.

“They say, ‘I want to weigh 180 pounds a year from now’, and they come in a year from now you weigh 181 pounds, the last thing I ever want you to feel is: ‘man, I didn’t reach my goal.’ Yeah, but you weigh 181 pounds, you look amazing. You feel amazing. You’re running 5Ks, you’re flying without a seatbelt extender, you just took your whole family to Disney World, and you’re graduating from college. So we really want to celebrate that it’s not all about weight loss.”

Hilton is a mom of two small children and has a full-time job, so she understands how difficult it can be to make this lifestyle change. This is why it is so important to her to walk through the goals and healthier choices that a patient can make to make their day-to-day easier. Understanding and compassion are two big keystones in her team’s patient care.

Another level of preventative care that Hilton and her team are providing her patients is through the Women’s Health Initiative. The Women’s Health Initiative is a program that she and Chadburn Ray, MD, came up with to give each female patient a head-to-toe screening, all in one place.

“Every single woman who walks into the bariatric and metabolic program is given the opportunity to be evaluated and see a trained OBGYN,” she says. “We had so many women that were not getting routine screening, things that would save their life, like pap smears and endometrial biopsies.”

The program was started in 2019 and through it, they have been able to get many women the care they need to prevent cancer and have been able to catch cancer that might have otherwise gone unnoticed until it was too late for treatment. Hilton hopes that this kind of program can be reproducible in other bariatric programs around the country

“If you thought about doing this, reach out, come in for a consultation. There’s no commitment, so come see us.”

If you would like to learn more about Bariatric and Weight Care, visit their website or call 706-721-4686. If you would like to hear more from Hilton, check out her episode of A Cancer Conversation on our YouTube page or wherever you love to listen to podcasts.