Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home

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Swallowing problems

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Swelling

Sweating

Sweating is heavy perspiration that can happen at night or even when the room is cool. It can be heavy enough to soak a person’s clothes. Such sweating is common when a fever breaks. You may notice sweating a short time after the person has shaking chills. (See the section called “Fever.”)

You can have a fever with or without a known infection. Sometimes no fever is detected, only the sweating that goes along with a drop or break in fever.

What to look for

  • Feeling wet or damp during the night or waking up to find sheets damp
  • Fever followed by heavy sweating as the body temperature goes back down
  • Shaking chills
  • Drenching sweats even when there is no fever

What the patient can do

  • Take medicine to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), if you are instructed to take it by the doctor or nurse.
  • Dress in 2 layers of clothing. The layer on the inside will act as a wick to pull moisture up and away from the skin.
  • Change wet clothes as quickly as possible.
  • Keep your bed linens dry.
  • If you’re sweating a lot, bathe at least once a day to soothe your skin and for good hygiene.

What caregivers can do

  • Help the patient keep clothes and bed linens dry.
  • Check the patient’s temperature several times a day. Wait 10-15 minutes after the patient eats or drinks to check temperature.
  • Offer extra liquids to replace the fluid that’s lost through sweat.
  • Offer to help the patient with a tub bath or shower if needed.

Call the doctor if the patient:

  • Becomes dehydrated from frequent soaking sweats (See the section called “Fluids (lack of) and dehydration.”)
  • Has fever of 100.5° F or higher (when taken by mouth) for more than 24 hours
  • Has tremors or shaking chills

Last Medical Review: 11/05/2013
Last Revised: 11/05/2013