What causes hot flushes and sweats

Hot flushes and sweats are the most common menopausal symptom.

Some cancer treatments can cause an early menopause. These include:

Breast cancer treatment often involves hormonal therapy. In women, hormonal treatments may cause menopausal symptoms or a temporary menopause. This is because these treatments block the effects of oestrogen on breast cancer cells, or reduce oestrogen in the body.

Hot flushes and sweats in men

Hormonal therapy is also used to treat men who have:

A side effects of the drugs used is hot flushes and sweats. The practical advice we give here can also help men to manage hot flushes caused by hormone therapy.

Tips to help with hot flushes and sweats

It is difficult to completely stop flushes and sweats. But you can usually reduce their severity and how often they happen. It is often best to try a combination of approaches.

Certain things cause (trigger) a hot flush. These could include:

  • getting too warm
  • drinking tea, coffee or alcohol
  • eating spicy foods.

Keeping a record of when you have hot flushes can help you find out what triggers them. This can help you try to avoid them.

Practical ways of coping with hot flushes

There are lots of practical things that may help you cope with hot flushes:

  • wear natural fabrics, such as cotton
  • wear layers, so you can remove clothes as needed
  • keep the room temperature cool, or use a fan
  • use cotton sheets and layers of bedding you can take off during the night
  • try a silk pillowcase or a special cooling pillow that contains a gel to absorb heat
  • have cold drinks rather than hot ones.

Making lifestyle changes

These lifestyle changes can also help reduce hot flushes:

Medicines to help with hot flushes

There may be medicines your doctor can prescribe to help with hot flushes if you:

Complementary therapies to help with hot flushes or sweats

Some complementary therapies may help with hot flushes.

Talk to your cancer doctor or specialist nurse first if you are thinking of starting a complementary therapy. Doctors advise women with breast cancer and other hormone related cancers not to take plant oestrogens for hot flushes. It is not clear how safe they are for them.