Hot flashes are a sudden increase in the warmth of your body, often primarily your face, neck, and chest. Hot flashes can cause temporary sweating and flushing of the face or skin despite no actual change in the external temperature.
Hot flashes can occur in women due to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone. Some cancer treatments, like radiation, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy (such as Tamoxifen), or surgeries to remove reproductive organs may place women into a menopausal state. One of the most common indicators of a menopausal state is hot flashes. Additionally, studies indicate over 50% of breast cancer survivors experience hot flashes (Chang, 2016).
Similarly, men who have prostate cancer and undergo testicular surgery or who take hormone therapy or androgen deprivation therapy (such as leuprolide (Lupron)) may also experience hot flashes. Hot flashes are one of the most common side effects of hormone therapy.
Furthermore, those reporting hot flashes are also more likely to report sleep disturbances, psychological dysfunction, and higher pain severity than those who do not report hot flashes (Chang, 2016)
Not only are hot flashes common, but we also recognize they can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional health. If you suffer from hot flashes or related side effects, we are here to help you navigate and manage your symptoms.
Common Causes of Hot Flashes
- Hormone therapy (either hormone depletion or replacement)
- Surgery to remove reproductive organs
- Some non-cancer medications such as steroids, opioids, or antidepressants
Managing Hot Flashes
- Continue to take all medications as prescribed
- Talk to your oncologist or PCP before trying over-the-counter medicine, herbs, or homeopathic remedies
- Keep a log of hot flash episodes (time, duration, and contributing factors)
- If your hot flashes are from fevers, communicate with your oncology team for management, as fever for patients in active treatment can be concerning
- If excessive sweating is occurring, change clothes and bed linens as frequently as possible
- Practice good skin hygiene by bathing/showering daily and moisturizing
- Increase oral hydration to replace fluid lost through sweat
Suggestions and Tips to Alleviate Hot Flashes
- Address any contributing factors or triggers, like:
- Spicy foods or hot beverages
- Non-breathable or restrictive clothing
- Consider dressing in layers – cotton or quick dry materials
- Keep sleeping area cool at night
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Increase physical activity
- Consider the use of acupuncture, yoga, or cognitive behavioral therapy
Most importantly, communicate with your oncologist if symptoms are ongoing and adversely affecting your quality of life so that they can help make further recommendations.
Questions to Ask Your Oncologist
- Are there any medications that may help make my hot flashes more manageable?
- Examples of frequently utilized medications for severe hot flashes include Gabapentin and Venlafaxine (SSRI) (Kaplan and Mahon, 2014).
- Is there anything else you recommend to make my hot flashes more tolerable?
- Some patients note relief from acupuncture treatments
Call Your Care Team If
- You are concerned about dehydration due to excessive sweating episodes
- You have a fever of 100.4 or higher than the level they have instructed you to monitor for
- Your hot flashes are causing emotional distress, and you feel you could benefit from meeting with a mental health counselor
For added support, our Iris Care Team can help tailor the above suggestion and tips to better manage your hot flashes.
- Chang, H. Y., Jotwani, A. C., Lai, Y. H., Jensen, M. P., Syrjala, K. L., Fann, J. R., & Gralow, J. (2016). Hot flashes in breast cancer survivors: Frequency, severity and impact. Breast (Edinburgh, Scotland), 27, 116–121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.breast.2016.02.013
- Kaplan, M., & Mahon, S. (2014). Hot Flash Management: Update of the evidence for patients with cancer. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, 18(s6), 59–67. https://doi.org/10.1188/14.cjon.s3.59-67
- Hot flashes and night sweats (PDQ®)–patient version. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/hot-flashes-pdq
- Hot flashes, common side effect of cancer treatment. Cancer Treatment Centers of America. (2021, September 21). Retrieved January 25, 2022, from https://www.cancercenter.com/integrative-care/hot-flashes
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Reviewed by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board
This article meets Iris standards for medical accuracy. It has been fact-checked by the Iris Clinical Editorial Board, our team of oncology experts who ensure that the content is evidence based and up to date. The Iris Clinical Editorial Board includes board-certified oncologists and pharmacists, psychologists, advanced practice providers, licensed clinical social workers, oncology-certified nurses, and dietitians.