Hot flashes

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Hot flashes are common side effects in cancer survivors.  Hot flashes are sudden feelings of warmth that usually begin on the face and chest and then spread through the body. Often lasting a few minutes, hot flashes can be accompanied by sweats, chills and anxiety.  Though most common in women, some men can experience hot flashes as well.

In women, hot flashes can be caused by low levels of the hormone estrogen. This can be due to natural menopause or early menopause brought on by certain cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy to the pelvis, removal of the ovaries, and certain chemotherapies and hormone therapies.

In men, hot flashes can be caused by low levels of the hormone testosterone, most often due to prostate cancer treatment, such as surgery to remove one or both testicles, or hormone therapy.

There are many simple changes that may help manage your hot flashes, including:

  • Dress in layers so you can peel one off when you get warmer.
  • Take a cool shower before bed.
  • When possible, lower the thermostat, use air conditioning, ceiling fans or handheld fans.
  • Use an ice pack or frozen water bottle on the back of your neck.

Other simple lifestyle changes the have proven effective to treat hot flashes include:

  • Exercise
  • Relaxation and stress reduction – such as meditation, breathing and visual exercises
  • Changing diet – for some, having a low fat diet is helpful in managing hot flashes.
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture

What you can do?

If you are having trouble with hot flashes, talk to your health care provider.  You don’t have to go through it alone.  Seeking treatment for your hot flashes could help improve your quality of life.