What are hot flashes? What can contribute to hot flashes?

What are hot flashes?

Hot flashes are a sensation of the body suddenly feeling hot. They typically begin with an uneasy feeling, then feeling intensely hot in the face and/or upper body, then feeling hot all over. Before or during a hot flash, you may feel nausea, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and/or headache. You may experience flushing and sweating. They can be a distressing symptom and affect your quality of life, particularly when they interrupt sleep frequently.

Hot flashes are also called hot flushes or vasomotor symptoms. They may be called night sweats if they happen at night.

What can contribute to hot flashes?

Hot flashes are usually caused by hormone changes. They are common among people with cancer and may be side effects of cancer or treatment including surgery, radiation therapy, and some medications.1National Cancer Institute. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats (PDQ®)–Patient Version. July 29, 2021. Viewed April 9, 2023. They are more common in women but also occur in men with locally advanced or metastatic prostate cancer after medical or surgical removal of one or both testicles (orchiectomy).2Charig CR, Rundle JS. Flushing. Long-term side effect of orchiectomy in treatment of prostatic carcinoma. Urology. 1989 Mar;33(3):175-8.

Medical conditions

Natural menopause

Overweight or obesity

Cancer treatments

Tamoxifen

Aromatase inhibitors

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT)

Other medical treatments

Surgical menopause from removal of ovaries

Gonadotropin-releasing hormones that stop ovaries from producing sex hormones (chemical menopause)

Orchiectomy (surgical removal of one or both testicles)

Estrogen

Opioids

Tricyclic antidepressants

Steroids

Lifestyle contributors to hot flashes

Evidence links each of these behaviors to increased risk of hot flashes in general, but not specific to people with cancer.3Jenabi E, Poorolajal J. The association between hot flushes and smoking in midlife women: a meta-analysis. Climacteric. 2015;18(6):797-801; Ahmadieh H, Jradi N. Prevalence of menopausal hot flashes in Lebanon: a cross-sectional study. International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine. 2021 Oct 10;19(9):789-800.

  • Drinking tea
  • Eating spicy food
  • Regularly eating fruits and vegetables
  • Smoking cigarettes

Helpful links

Authors

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Reviewer

Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN

Manager at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute and CancerChoices Clinical Consultant
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Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN, has been a nurse for nearly 40 years, working in a variety of healthcare settings. She currently works in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute as the manager for Integrative Oncology and Cancer Survivorship. She works with a multidisciplinary team to deliver holistic, evidence-based support and education for patients and care partners at any point along the trajectory of cancer care. She completed the Integrative Oncology Scholars Program through the University of Michigan in 2020, is certified as an Integrative Health Coach through Duke Integrative Medicine and has a post-graduate certificate in Nursing Education from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Susan also was awarded the Planetree International Scholar’s Award in 2018 and was recognized by the Daisy Foundation for Nurse Leadership in 2021. Susan has a particular interest in empowering patients and care partners with knowledge to help drive informed decision making and educating nurses on the benefits of integrative care for patients and self-care. She has presented nationally and internationally on integrative oncology and nursing education.

She and her husband, Mark, have two adult children and a very spoiled foxhound. She enjoys hiking, knitting, cooking, and pickleball.

“As a frequent consumer of Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, and now CancerChoices, for both professional education and patient support, it is an honor to have the opportunity to engage with the dedicated team at CancerChoices to serve those impacted by this disease.”  

 

Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN Manager at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute and CancerChoices Clinical Consultant

Last update: December 4, 2023

Last full literature review: April 2023

CancerChoices provides information about integrativein cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care, and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocialtherapy, and acupuncture therapies and self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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