Hot flashes are one of the many side effects of cancer treatment. A hot flash is defined as “a subjective sensation of heat that is associated with objective signs of cutaneous vasodilation and a subsequent drop in core temperature” (Kaplan, Mahon, Cope, Keating, Hill & Jacobson, 2011). Another description of a hot flash is a “sudden sensation of intense warmth that begins in the chest region and rises to the neck and face” (Loprinzi, Barton & Rhodes, 2001). Hot flashes are difficult to measure because they are a subjective experience. Electronic monitoring devices have been used to assess skin temperature and objectively measure hot flashes (Carpenter, 2005). Hot flashes cause discomfort and can affect a patient’s quality of life, especially when associated with night sweats, sleep disruption, and mood swings (Loprinzi, Barton & Rhodes, 2001).
There are certain types of cancer treatments that cause hot flashes in patients. Cancer treatments that target estrogen and testosterone production cause more incidences of hot flashes than other cancer treatments (Kaplan et al., 2011). The side effects of these types of cancer therapies include hormone-deprivation symptoms, one of which can be hot flashes (Kaplan et al., 2011). These treatments are used for breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men (Kaplan et al., 2011). Premenopausal women who undergo treatment for cancer may also experience hot flashes. This is because “about 80% of premenopausal women who receive chemotherapy and endocrine therapy will experience premature menopause in the first year following their diagnosis” (Kaplan et al., 2011).
Many interventions have been researched regarding hot flashes caused by cancer treatments, including pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions. In a journal article by Kaplan et al. (2011), articles were reviewed for evidence-based management of hot flashes. As far as pharmacologic interventions, the evidence-based review revealed that the drugs gabapentin and venlafaxine were the only measures likely to be effective (Kaplan et al., 2011). Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant, while venlafaxine is an antidepressant. Side effects of venlafaxine include nausea, nervousness, and constipation, while gabapentin’s side effects include nausea, rash, and somnolence (Carpenter, 2005).
Most of the other interventions investigated in this article were placed in to the category labeled as “effectiveness not established” (Kaplan et al., 2011). This category included other drugs, herbs, vitamins, and complementary and alternative medicine. The authors mention that the placebo effect was significant enough in studies to be considered. The article suggests the need for a more effective assessment tool for hot flashes. This could provide researchers with a better way to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention (Kaplan et al., 2011).
In a review by Carpenter (2005), studies showed that both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions reduced hot...