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Our Helpline nurses answer your common questions about hot flushes.
Hot flushes can be caused by several treatments including chemotherapy, hormone (endocrine) therapy or ovarian suppression. Hot flushes are the most common side effect of the hormone therapy treatment, tamoxifen.
Everyone is different, some people have a couple of hot flushes a day or a few every hour. They can fade over time and become less severe, or others find that they last for years.
If you’re struggling to manage your side effects and want to stop taking hormone therapy talk to your specialist first. This is because not taking the drug for the recommended time may increase the risk of breast cancer coming back.
You may be able to change the hormone therapy drug you are on. Speak to your treatment team to see if this is an option for you. This will depend on your individual situation and discussions with your specialist.
Some people taking hormone therapy say they have found that different manufacturers cause a change in the side effects they experience.
Although the main ingredient remains the same, some of the tablets may differ in their additional ingredients (for example, preservatives). The colour, shape, size and sometimes taste of the tablets can also differ between brands. You may find that one manufacturer suits you better than another. However, the effectiveness of the treatment remains the same.
Some women have found that changing the time of day they take hormone therapy can improve side effects. Once you find a time that suits you, it’s best to take it at the same time every day.
Find helpful tips from other women who have experienced hot flushes caused by breast cancer treatment in our booklet Menopausal symptoms and breast cancer.
A number of prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, can help relieve hot flushes. However, these can have side effects so you may need to see if the benefits of taking them outweigh the drawbacks. Some prescription drugs may also interact with other treatments you might be having so check first with your treatment team.
Some women prefer to try complementary therapies and find them helpful in relieving hot flushes and improving a sense of wellbeing. However, compared to conventional drug treatments there is much less reliable evidence to show that complementary therapies work.
Everyone is different, what works for one person may not work for you. You may need to try different treatments, this could be complementary therapies or prescription drugs, before you find one that helps you.
Although evening primrose oil is often talked about there is little evidence to show that it has an effect on reducing hot flushes. Some herbal remedies might interact with your treatment so it’s important to speak to your treatment team before taking any herbal remedy or supplement.
Moisture-wicking clothes are designed to draw moisture (sweat) away from your skin. Some women have said they find these clothes helpful.
However, this type of clothing won’t prevent or stop your hot flushes, but they may help you feel more comfortable.
If hot flushes and night sweats are getting worse, or impacting your daily life, then speak to your treatment team or GP.
It can be useful to talk to other women who have similar symptoms. This can give you the opportunity to share experiences and get tips on different ways of coping. You can join our Forum to get support and tips from other women who have experienced hot flushes and night sweats.
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Order or download our booklet Menopausal symptoms and breast cancer. If you would like any further information or just want to talk things through, you can speak to one of our experts by calling our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000.