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Hot Flashes Not Given Recognition in Cancer Patients

Hot flashes are one of the most prominent and well known symptoms of menopause, but what some people don’t know is that they are also a symptom that women who have had breast cancer experience. In fact, seventy percent of the women who have had breast cancer find themselves encountering more and more problems related to menopause. From hot flashes and mood swings to night sweats, women find themselves having these symptoms for up to five years after their cancer treatment is over. This can affect them at work, home, in relationships, and in everyday life, leaving them feeling vulnerable and unwell. Unfortunately, the lack of knowledge with these changes that cancer patients undergo can lead to a lack of understand and empathy from employers, family members and society. A new study has found that there is differences between what the patient feels and what doctors are diagnosing.

Following Up On The Latest Study

The study, which was carried out at the University of Southampton was led by Dr. Debbie Fenion. During this time two surveys were carried out, one that followed up with physicians who have been treating these women’s symptoms, and one with the women themselves. What they found was that many doctors recognized that there were hot flashes involved in the post-cancer healing process, the treatments that women were getting for their conditions were different across the board. Unlike treatment given for menopausal symptoms, this string of hot flashes and night sweats was not being treated in a way that was conducive to the issue at hand. Doctors who filled out the surveys seemed to believe that only ten to thirty percent of women were affected by extreme hot flashes; this did not reflect the women’s reply, which is reported by Science Daily: “In contrast, when the women were asked to give a problem rating (one to 10) for their hot flashes in the past week, the majority of respondents rated flashes between six and 10 (out of 10) as to how much of a problem they are and six and 10 (out of 10) for how distressed they were by flushing.”

Of six hundred and sixty-six women who filled out the survey, more than 90% reported their hot flashes to be a serious problem in their life, affecting things that shouldn’t be affected at this early stage of womanhood. Of this 94%, less than 25% were addressed by their doctors in regards to hot flashes and similar symptoms that they would experience following the treatment for their breast cancer.

Breast Cancer And Hot Flashes

Every single year more than two hundred thousand women receive the diagnosis of breast cancer, and undergo multiple varying treatments such as the surgical removal of breasts and ovaries, antiestrogen therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and other cures that can induce and intensify the symptoms that are usually only associated with menopause. Many of these womena re not yet menopausal, and experience intense vaginal dryness, hot flashes, sleep sweats, sleep disturbance, and urinary tract issues. Hot flashes don’t have any one particular treatment that has been proven to work, but there are a few different ways that women can find relief. Menopause.org suggests: “Avoid hot flash triggers. Let’s start with the simplest option. Every woman is different, so try to identify the things that trigger your hot flashes and adjust your lifestyle—keeping a diary of what you were doing when the hot flash occurred is a good start. Triggers may include: stress, alcohol, caffeine, diet pills, spicy food, hot showers, hot weather, smoking, and overheated bedrooms.”

You can also help reduce hot flashes or relieve them as much as possible by keeping your body temperature cool. Switch your sheets to cotton, and sleep with your foot out for air, place a fan in your room, and take a cool shower at night before you retire to bed. You can also dress during the day in layers, trying to stick to natural fibers which will absorb moisture and wick it away from the skin.

Reducing Your Hot Flashes

Aside from the above mentioned methods for hot flash reduction, women who are dealing with these symptoms post cancer treatment can help ease them by maintaining their body weight at a healthy level. Having a BMI more than 27 kg/m2 can lead to worse hot flashes. Cigarettes, and a lack of exercise will also make you hotter faster, so try to work out and keep clear of smoke and friends who are smoking. Some women may turn to non-hormonal medications, while others try more natural methods such as yoga and meditation to try and keep distressed and calm during this time. Cancerresearch.uk advises: “It is not easy to cope with hot flushes and sweats. Understanding more about them and what you can do to help is a good starting point. If they are interfering with your sleep, try to rest during the day if you can. Tiredness can make it more difficult to cope.”

What’s more important here is that doctors begin to realize what their patients need and how much this truly impairs their lives; this will lead to more thorough treatments and a higher number of relieved women.

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