Hot Flashes

Key Points

  • Hot flashes can also be caused by cancer or by cancer treatments.
  • Hormonal, drug and non-drug approaches are available to manage hot flashes.
  • If you are thinking of or are using a natural product for hot flashes, be sure to alert your physician to avoid or manage interactions with treatments and other therapies.

Hot flashes and night sweats are common in people with cancer, more common in women but also occurring in men. They can be a distressing symptom and affect quality of life, particularly when they frequently interrupt sleep.

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When hormone levels change—as in menopause, removal of the ovaries or testicles, or hormonal treatment for breast or prostate cancer—the hypothalamus misreads the signal and thinks the body is too hot, triggering a hot flash.

Managing Hot Flashes

Conventional Approaches

Hormonal, drug and non-drug approaches are available to manage hot flashes. While estrogen replacement therapy seems to be the most successful therapy for natural or treatment-induced menopause, this therapy is contraindicated in women who have or have had breast cancer, high-risk endometrial cancer or some ovarian cancers. In some of these cancers, suppressing estrogen’s growth-promoting effects on the cancer cells is crucial.2

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Complementary Approaches

A number of complementary approaches can help relieve or reduce the frequency of hot flashes:4

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Cautions

Estrogen therapy may not be an option for many women who have or have had breast cancer, and some uterine and ovarian cancers. Hormone therapy may also increase risk of breast cancer or cancer recurrence.6 Check with your physician before use.

Integrative Plans, Protocols and Medical Systems

For more information about plans and protocols, see our Integrative Plans and Protocols page.

Written by Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS, and reviewed by Nancy Hepp, MS; most recent update on October 18, 2018.

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Comments (2)

  1. Natalie:
    Jul 26, 2018 at 01:07 AM

    Don’t forget to add information about ovarian cancer and how hormone replacement therapy is off the table for alleviation of hot flashes. Zero hormones are allowed. There is a fear hormones will make the cancer grow so no estrogen is allowed. Breast cancer isn’t the only one with concerns about estrogen. Endometrioid cancer is another one fueled by estrogen.

  2. Laura Pole:
    Jul 31, 2018 at 10:43 AM

    Thank-you for your comment. We have edited this page based on further review of evidence.

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