Managing Hot Flashes In Cancer Patients
Hot flashes are temporary but sudden sensations of heat, usually in the face, neck, and chest. They can cause skin to flush (as if you’re blushing) and profuse sweating followed by chills. When they happen at night, they’re often called night sweats.
Most commonly, hot flashes are due to menopause in women, although men can get them too. But they are also sometimes the side effects of cancer or cancer treatments. In addition to the sudden warmth and some reddening of the skin (as if you’re blushing), patients might also feel fatigued or irritable. For many breast cancer and prostate cancer patients, hot flash intensity is moderate to severe.
What Should I Avoid?
- Spicy foods
- Tight clothing
- Cigarette smoke
- Diet pills
- Hot showers
- Hot weather
How Can I Manage Hot Flashes?
- Keep temperatures lower in your home, especially your bedroom at night, by lowering your thermostat or using fans; try sleeping with one foot outside of the covers
- Dress in layers; a jacket or sweater can easily be removed when a hot flash strikes
Wear cool, natural fibers like cotton and use cotton sheets on your bed
- Exercise daily; fewer instances of hot flashes occur in those who exercise regularly
- Take a cool shower before going to bed
- Keep a bottle of cool water nearby
There are several over-the-counter and prescription medications that may help in dealing with hot flashes. Friendly family members and neighbors are always full of suggestions on the latest herbal therapy that helped “cure” their hot flashes. But be cautious. Many herbal supplements contain plant estrogen and soy. Talk to your OHC oncologist or your primary care physician before starting any new medication or supplement to treat hot flashes.
Remember, while hot flashes are uncomfortable, they are temporary and are not harmful to your health. Over time, hot flashes will decrease in their intensity and occur less often. So keep cool…we can manage this together.