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.
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. 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. 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. 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.References
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- Charig CR, Rundle JS: Flushing. Long-term side effect of orchiectomy in treatment of prostatic carcinoma. Urology 33 (3): 175-8, 1989. [PUBMED Abstract]