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In people with cancer, certain conditions and medications can cause sweating, hot flashes, or night sweats. They happen when your body tries to lower its temperature. They can happen even when the area around you or the room you're in is cool.
Sweating is your body's way to lower its temperature. It normally happens when your body is exposed to heat, after exercise, because of hormone changes, or when people are feeling anxious and stressed. If you are sick, having a fever can also cause sweating. In people with cancer, sweating can also be caused by a fever, a tumor, or cancer treatment.
Hot flashes involve sweating, but can be described as a sensation of heat or flushing. They might include flushing in the face or may be described as heat in other areas of the body. People who have hot flashes describe them as ranging from feeling just a sensation of warmth with mild sweat to having chills and enough perspiration to soak your clothes or bedding. If hot flashes are moderate to severe, sometimes you might have problems sleeping and fatigue, too.
Hot flashes often normally occur in women because of hormone changes during menopause. In women being treated with hormone therapy for breast cancer, hot flashes can have different severity and can be long-lasting.
Hot flashes can also occur in women being treated for other cancers with methods known to have early menopause or temporary hormone changes as a side effect. These hot flashes might be temporary or long-lasting depending on the treatment given.
Men being treated for prostate cancer who have surgery and androgen suppression therapy may have hot flashes for a period of time that might eventually go away. If your treatment plan includes any of these treatments or if you are having hot flashes, talk to your cancer care team so they can assess your specific situation.
The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
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Last Revised: December 9, 2020
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