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Hot Flashes and Night Sweats (PDQ®)


Hot flashes and night sweats are common in cancer survivors, particularly women, but they can also occur in men. Pathophysiologic mechanisms are complex. Treatment options are broad-based, including hormonal agents, nonhormonal pharmacotherapies, and diverse integrative medicine modalities.[1]

Hot flashes occur in approximately two-thirds of postmenopausal women with a breast cancer history and are associated with night sweats in 44%.[2,3] For most breast cancer and prostate cancer patients, hot flash intensity is moderate to severe. Sweating can be part of the hot flash complex that characterizes the vasomotor instability of menopause. Physiologically, sweating mediates core body temperature by producing transdermal evaporative heat loss.[4,5] Hot flashes accompanied by sweating that occur during the sleeping hours are often called night sweats.[6] Another synonym found in the literature is hot flushes.

Approximately 20% of women without breast cancer seek medical treatment for postmenopausal symptoms, including symptoms related to vasomotor instability.[7] Vasomotor symptoms resolve spontaneously in most patients in this population, with only 20% of affected women reporting significant hot flashes 4 years after the last menses.[7] There are no comparable data for women with metastatic breast cancer. Three-quarters of men with locally advanced or metastatic prostate cancer treated with medical or surgical orchiectomy experience hot flashes.[8]


  1. Dalal S, Zhukovsky DS: Pathophysiology and management of hot flashes. J Support Oncol 4 (7): 315-20, 325, 2006 Jul-Aug. [PUBMED Abstract]
  2. Couzi RJ, Helzlsouer KJ, Fetting JH: Prevalence of menopausal symptoms among women with a history of breast cancer and attitudes toward estrogen replacement therapy. J Clin Oncol 13 (11): 2737-44, 1995. [PUBMED Abstract]
  3. Carpenter JS, Andrykowski MA, Cordova M, et al.: Hot flashes in postmenopausal women treated for breast carcinoma: prevalence, severity, correlates, management, and relation to quality of life. Cancer 82 (9): 1682-91, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  4. Boulant JA: Thermoregulation. In: Machowiak PA, ed.: Fever: Basic Mechanisms and Management. New York, NY: Raven Press, 1991, pp 1-22.
  5. Dinarello CA, Bunn PA Jr: Fever. Semin Oncol 24 (3): 288-98, 1997. [PUBMED Abstract]
  6. 8 Causes of Night Sweats. New York, NY: WebMD, 2012. Available online. Last accessed March 25, 2014.
  7. Johnson SR: Menopause and hormone replacement therapy. Med Clin North Am 82 (2): 297-320, 1998. [PUBMED Abstract]
  8. Charig CR, Rundle JS: Flushing. Long-term side effect of orchiectomy in treatment of prostatic carcinoma. Urology 33 (3): 175-8, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]
  • Updated: April 14, 2014