Hot Flashes

Side effect of cancer- Sweating

Sweating

Sweating and night sweats are fairly common in people with cancer. They can be a distressing symptom and affect the quality of life, particularly when they frequently interrupt sleep.

Sweating can be described as 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 the sweating, people may feel nausea, anxiety, rapid heartbeat, dizziness and headache.[ 1 ] There may be flushing and sweating. According to the National Cancer Institute, sweating and night sweats may be side effects of cancer or its treatment.[ 2 ]

Causes of Sweating

The hypothalamus gland is the body’s thermostat. When it senses that the body is too hot, the hypothalamus causes a reaction similar to a sweating. When you have a fever and become flushed (red), feel hot and start sweating, the hypothalamus is doing its job.[ 1 ]

Sweating can be caused by the following:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Hormone therapy
  • Surgical removal of ovaries or testes
  • Radiation damage to the ovaries, testes or the hypothalamic region of the brain.
  • Menopause
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs such as opioids
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Steroids

Managing Sweating

Conventional Approaches

Hormonal, drug and non-drug approaches are available to manage sweating. Even though estrogen replacement therapy seems to be the most successful therapy for natural or treatment-induced menopause, this therapy is contraindicated in women who have or have had breast cancer, high-risk endometrial cancer or some ovarian cancers. In some of these cancers, suppressing estrogen’s growth-promoting effects on the cancer cells is crucial.[ 3 ]

Sweating in men with prostate cancer may be treated with estrogens, progestin, antidepressants and anticonvulsants. However, certain hormones (such as estrogen) can make some cancers grow or increase your risk of other cancers.[ 3 ]

Integrative Approaches

A number of complementary approaches can help relieve or reduce the frequency of sweating:[ 4 ]

  • Dietary strategies such sipping on ice-cold drinks, or reducing or avoiding alcohol, caffeine and spicy foods
  • Mind-Body approaches such as: 
    • Hypnosis
    • Progressive muscle relaxation
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Approaches for managing stress 
  • Sleeping well by creating a more comfortable environment such as wearing light cotton clothing and running a fan or opening a window to cool the bedroom
  • Acupuncture 

Before starting any of these therapies either consult a physician or talk to us to find safer ways to practice this.

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