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Tips for Side Effects

It’s Getting Hot in Here: Tips for Managing Hot Flashes

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*.

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*.

Understanding the Triggers of Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are not only prevalent but can also have significant effects on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They can be triggered by:

  • Hormone therapy (either hormone depletion or replacement)

  • Chemotherapy

  • Surgical procedures involving the removal of reproductive organs

  • The natural process of menopause

  • Radiation treatment

  • Certain non-cancer medications, including steroids, opioids, and antidepressants


7 Tips for Managing Hot Flashes

To effectively manage hot flashes, consider the following:

  1. Adhere to Medication: Continue taking all prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider.

  2. Consult Your Care Team: Before attempting over-the-counter remedies, herbal supplements, or homeopathic solutions, consult with your oncologist or primary care physician (PCP) to ensure they are safe and suitable for you.

  3. Maintain a Hot Flash Log: Keep a record of your hot flash episodes, including the time, duration, and any potential triggers or contributing factors. This can help identify patterns and potential solutions.

  4. Fever-Related Hot Flashes: If your hot flashes are related to fever, promptly communicate with your oncology team for appropriate management. Fevers in patients undergoing active treatment can be a cause for concern.

  5. Manage Sweating: If excessive sweating occurs, change your clothes and bed linens as frequently as needed to stay comfortable and maintain good hygiene.

  6. Skin Care: Practice daily bathing or showering and moisturize your skin to minimize discomfort and irritation.

  7. Stay Hydrated: Increase your oral fluid intake to replenish fluids lost through sweating.


Strategies and Advice for Easing Hot Flashes

Hot flashes can be managed more effectively by addressing contributing factors or triggers such as:

  • Consumption of spicy foods or hot beverages

  • Caffeine intake

  • Alcohol consumption

  • Wearing non-breathable or tight-fitting clothing

Consider the following strategies:

  • Dress in layers using breathable materials like cotton or quick-dry fabrics.

  • Ensure your sleeping area is kept cool during the night.

  • Maintain a healthy weight through balanced nutrition and regular physical activity.

  • Incorporate increased physical activity into your routine.

  • Explore complementary therapies like acupuncture, yoga, or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to alleviate symptoms.

Most importantly, communicate with your oncologist if you continue to experience symptoms that significantly impact your quality of life so that they can help make further recommendations.


Questions to Ask Your Care Team

  • Are there any medications that may help make my hot flashes more manageable?

    • Good to know: examples of frequently utilized medications for severe hot flashes include Gabapentin and Venlafaxine (SSRI)**.

  • Is there anything else you recommend to make my hot flashes more tolerable?

    • Good to know: some patients note relief from acupuncture treatments.

  • Should I take over-the-counter supplements to help with my hot flashes?

    • Good to know: for patients on hormone therapy or those who have had treatment for prostate cancer or breast cancer, it is important to avoid over-the-counter supplements that contain estrogen, testosterone, or similarly mimicking products.

When To Call Your Care Team
  • 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

The Iris Care Team is here to help, too. Message a nurse now for personalized suggestions 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

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.