Top 10 Ways To Cope With Hot Flashes with Breast Cancer

Coping When Breast Cancer Treatments Make You Sweat

How to cope with hot flashes when you have breast cancer is a hot topic.  It's the sensation of having a personal summer heat wave, and can include flushed face and upper body, sweating, and pounding heartbeat. Chemotherapy and estrogen suppressors can dramatically lower your estrogen levels, and that causes hot flashes. Hormone therapy can help, but is not recommended for women who are at risk for breast cancer. Here are 10 ways to cope with hot flashes, without using hormonal treatments.

1
Stand in a Swimming Pool

Woman swimming
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Parks and gyms have their pools open for summer, and most are kept at 78-82°F. This is cooler than your average body temperature, and when you are standing in cool water, the water itself draws body heat away from you. I found that I never had a flash while in the pool. If I stayed in the cool water of the pool for half an hour, the effect lasted about two hours longer, which was a great way to be temporarily hot flash free.

2
Get Some Cool Sleep - Cotton, Cool Water, Chillows

Woman making bed
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If you have night sweats, try wearing wicking pajamas or nightgowns, and using only cotton sheets. Synthetic fabrics and sleep don't mix well if you're having hot flashes. Try a cool shower, or a glass of cool water just before bed. Get a Chillow to cool your pillow - it's like a small waterbed for your head. It is a water-filled cushion that soaks your hot flash away. Turn the Chillow vertically, to cool your back and head as you fall asleep.

3
Just Cool It, Inside and Out

Turning down the thermastat
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If you have control of the thermostat, turn it down, especially at night. A cooler bedroom can help you cut down on night sweats. Use a ceiling fan or small personal fan to keep the air around you moving. During the daytime, if you're at home and don't care how foolish you may look, just open your freezer, grab a bag of frozen veggies, and put them right on your hottest area.

4
Drink a Cool One

A glass of iced water with lemons and limes
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Keep ice-cold water nearby, and when you feel a hot flash coming on, drink up. The feeling of cold water flowing inside you will bring relief, and the coolness of the water will actually help lessen the severity of a flash. If you're in chemotherapy, be sure to have at least 8 eight-ounce servings of fluids (for a total of 64 ounces of water or fluids per day), to stay well hydrated.

5
Wipe Out Hot Flashes

Woman wiping face
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Here's a portable solution for hot flashes: Keep a package of baby wipes and a fan nearby. When a hot flash warms you up, use the baby wipe to moisten your face and neck, or wherever else you typically feel the heat. Use the fan to push air at your moistened skin, to produce evaporative cooling. If you can't take electric fan with you, use a paper fan, which does the trick just as well.

6
Diet and Exercise

Woman doing yoga in living room
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 Get some exercise at least three hours per week to raise your endorphine levels. Endorphines drop during a hot flash, so elevating those will help moderate your hot flash symptoms.

Consider eating soy-based foods or dishes with plant-based phytoestrogens, to cut down on hot flashes. Some good examples are tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy nuts, lentils, chickpeas, celery, carrots, and grains.  But always talk to your doctor first.  There has been significant controversy over the consumption of soy-based foods by people with breast cancer, and research is ongoing. Soy supplements are not as effective as dietary soy in reducing hot flashes, and many oncologists discourage their use by women (and men) with breast cancer.

7
Take Your Vitamins

Vitamins on table
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Taking vitamin E has been found to help with hot flashes while lowering the risk of breast cancer, but talk to your doctor first  There are some issues to consider before. using vitamins and minerals during cancer treatment.

8
Don't Squeeze the Trigger

No smoking sign
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Some common things, many of which are under your control, can trigger hot flashes.

Cut back or eliminate these triggers:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • spicy foods
  • diet pills
  • nicotine

Pass up on these temptations:

  • hot tubs
  • hot showers
  • saunas
  • hot food
  • hot bed
  • hot room

9
Dress for a Quick Escape

Linen shirts hanging
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Since you never know when a hot flash will target you, dress in loose-fitting layers, so you can be prepared to peel off enough clothing to cool down, but not so much that you're immodest. Choose cotton and linen fabrics whenever you can, because it allows your skin to breathe, rather than synthetics, which tend to seal in moisture.

10
Lose the Blues

Woman taking pill
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Ask your doctor about the possibility of using medications if your hot flashes are having a major impact on your life.  Medications such as Neurontin (gabapentin) and Effexor (venlaxafin) may help with hot flashes, but have side effects just as any medication you add.

Studies have been done using some antidepressants referred to as SSRI's.  Medications in this category include Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, and Lexapro.  While these drugs may cut down the intensity of hot flashes and give a lift for people with depression, they have also been found to block the effects of some breast cancer medications such as Tamoxifen.

Source:

National Cancer Institute. Hot Flashes and Night Sweats – for health care professionals (PDQ). Updated 07/16/15. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/sexuality-fertility-women/hot-flashes-hp-pdq

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