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Hot Flushes: What causes them and how to manage them

Hot flashes/flushes are common menopausal symptoms. They are also common in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, hormonal therapies (e.g. tamoxifen) and ovarian suppression therapy or removal. This is because these therapies interact with and suppress the oestrogen hormone. This mimics the hormonal changes which occur during menopause, leading to menopausal symptoms. 51-81% of women with breast cancer report hot flushes, for some these can be a daily occurrence.

Hot flashes/flushes can feel like an intense internal heat in the chest, face and head accompanied by sweats and/or chills. They usually last between 1-5minutes but can continue for hours at a time. Flushes can also occur at night time, commonly referred to as night sweats, disturbing sleep. Symptoms can range from mild warming sensations to the face to more frequent and intense bodily sensations. 

Possible triggers to look out for include caffeine, spicy foods, smoking and stress. Getting to know your triggers allows you to reduce them as much as possible and form better management strategies with your medical team. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a structure talking therapy, has also been found to be an effective management tool for hot flushes. Its powerful health benefits continue after therapy has ended, and extend to all parts of healthy living, improving mood and quality of life. 

If hot flushes persist after trying lifestyle changes, speak with your medical team to see if available drug treatments are suitable for you. Please always consult your medical team before trying new medication or therapies, including alternative medicine and homeopathic remedies as they can interact with your cancer treatment. For example, black cohosh, a common homeopathic remedy for a range of menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, can reduce the effectiveness of the common Tamoxifen cancer treatment drug. Check out the Owise blog post on “Tamoxifen: what you should and shouldn’t avoid” for more information. 

To learn more about hot flushes, how to manage them and other cancer treatment side effects head to the Owise blog page https://owise.uk/blogs/

If you would like to start monitoring and tracking your hot flushes, you can download the FREE OWise app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store. 

Hot Flushes: What causes them and how to manage them
February 26, 2021

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