Managing Hot Flashes and Sweating

Managing hot flashes and sweating includes medications to treat the underlying cause of the symptoms, if possible, and medications to help with the symptoms themselves. Managing them also means helping the patient feel more comfortable and finding ways to relieve them. Talk to your cancer care team about the right treatment for you.

Medications

How hot flashes and sweating are managed depends on what's causing them. Sometimes medications can be used and sometimes lifestyle changes might help. These can be classified as either non-hormone therapy and hormone therapy. Because every patient is different, it's important to talk to your cancer care team about what is best for your situation.

Non-hormone therapy

  • Prescription medications: low doses of certain anti-depressant, anti-seizure, and high blood pressure medications have been shown to help control hot flashes
  • Over-the-counter medications, such as fever reducers or mild pain relievers, or vitamins and other supplements that are recommended by your cancer care team.
  • Therapies, such as massage, acupuncture, yoga, and cognitive behavioral interventions.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as weight management and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.

Hormone therapy

Medication to replace hormones that have decreased because of surgery or other treatment may be prescribed. This depends on the type and stage of cancer you have, as well as other tests that are done on your tumor when it's diagnosed. It's important to talk with your doctor about your situation, about the pros and cons of taking these drugs, and the side effects they might cause if your treatment plan includes them.

There are vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that claim to help with sweating and hot flashes. Some can be helpful, but it's important to talk with your doctor about whether they are safe for you to take.

What the patient can do

Take medicine to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), if your health care team says it's ok for you to do so. Depending on what is causing your sweating or hot flashes, there may be different ways you can help to manage them.

  • Take all medications as prescribed.
  • Talk to your doctor before trying any over-the-counter medicine, or any vitamin, mineral, or nutritional supplement that you think might help.
  • Talk to your doctor if your anti-perspirant or deodorant is not working well.
  • Track episodes of sweating and hot flashes.
  • If your sweating is from fevers, take and track your temperature as instructed.
  • Dress in 2 layers of clothing in cooler temperatures. The layer on the inside will act as a wick to pull moisture up and away from the skin. The layers on the outside can be removed as needed.
  • Change wet clothes and bed linens as soon as you can.
  • Take good care of your skin and use good personal hygiene. For example, if you’re sweating a lot, bathe or shower at least once a day and put on a moisturizer as needed to soothe your skin and for good hygiene.

What caregivers can do

  • Help the patient take and track their temperature, if needed.
  • Help the patient keep track of any sweating episodes.
  • Help the patient change wet clothes and bed linens.
  • Check the patient’s temperature by mouth a few times a day and in the evening.
  • Offer extra liquids to replace the fluid that’s lost through sweat.
  • Offer to help the patient bathe or shower if needed.

Call the cancer care team if the patient

  • Becomes dehydrated from frequent soaking sweats
  • Has fever of 100.5° F or higher than usual for them or higher than a level instructed by the cancer care team (when taken by mouth) for more than 24 hours
  • Has tremors or shaking chills that last

 

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.

Abraham JL, Moment A. Sexuality, intimacy, and cancer. A Physician's Guide to Pain and Symptom Management in Cancer Patients. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 2014:390-426.

Giridhar KV, Kohli M, Goetz MP.  Endocrine changes. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:347- 358. 

Kaplan M. Hot flashes. In Brown CG, ed. A Guide to Oncology Symptom Management. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2015:421-442.

Lesi G, Razzini G, Musti MA, et al. Acupuncture as an integrative approach for the treatment of hot flashes in women with breast cancer: A prospective multicenter randomized controlled trial (AcCliMaT). J Clin Oncol. 2016;34:1795-1802.

National Cancer Institute (NIH). Hot Flashes and Night Sweats (PDQ®)–Patient Version. 2019Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/hot-flashes-pdq on September 25, 2019.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Clinical practice guidelines in oncology: Survivorship. Version 2.2019. Accessed at www.nccn.org on January 6, 2020.

Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). Symptom intervention: Hot flashes. Accessed at  https://www.ons.org/pep/hot-flashes on January 6, 2020. 

Trump D.  Endocrine Complications. In Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:707-714.

Zhou ES, Bober SL. Sexual problems. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:2220-2229.  

References

Abraham JL, Moment A. Sexuality, intimacy, and cancer. A Physician's Guide to Pain and Symptom Management in Cancer Patients. 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press; 2014:390-426.

Giridhar KV, Kohli M, Goetz MP.  Endocrine changes. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:347- 358. 

Kaplan M. Hot flashes. In Brown CG, ed. A Guide to Oncology Symptom Management. 2nd ed. Pittsburgh, PA: Oncology Nursing Society; 2015:421-442.

Lesi G, Razzini G, Musti MA, et al. Acupuncture as an integrative approach for the treatment of hot flashes in women with breast cancer: A prospective multicenter randomized controlled trial (AcCliMaT). J Clin Oncol. 2016;34:1795-1802.

National Cancer Institute (NIH). Hot Flashes and Night Sweats (PDQ®)–Patient Version. 2019Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/hot-flashes-pdq on September 25, 2019.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Clinical practice guidelines in oncology: Survivorship. Version 2.2019. Accessed at www.nccn.org on January 6, 2020.

Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). Symptom intervention: Hot flashes. Accessed at  https://www.ons.org/pep/hot-flashes on January 6, 2020. 

Trump D.  Endocrine Complications. In Niederhuber JE, Armitage JO, Kastan MB, Doroshow JH, Tepper JE, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:707-714.

Zhou ES, Bober SL. Sexual problems. In DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019:2220-2229.  

Last Revised: February 1, 2020

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