Hot flashes occur as a result of chemotherapy and induced menopause or hormonal treatment and are highly prevalent and persistent for breast cancer survivors and can also occur in prostate cancer survivors.1 Symptoms include sudden, unpredictable onset of intense heat with sweating and flushing of the face. Hot flashes may be accompanied by palpitations and a sense of anxiety or apprehension. Hot flashes occur in 75% of women undergoing natural menopause, too.2 They can make sleep quite difficult leading to increased fatigue and diminished quality of life.
Hot flashes may be a source of discomfort. You may be more sensitive to hot flashes in warmer work environments. Hot flashes can also disturb your sleep. Thus, poor sleep, fatigue and anxiety may also have an adverse effect on your work life (see sleep disturbances).
What you can do
Keep a record of the hot flashes you experience, including their frequency, severity and any other symptoms that may accompany them. Your record keeping will be helpful in customizing therapy. Speak to your healthcare team for suggestions about the management of hot flashes which may include:
- medications, including hormonal therapies, antidepressants and anti-seizure medications
- cognitive behavioural therapy
- dietary changes
You may want to speak to your family doctor about natural supplements.
Modify your work tasks and how you work:
Dress in layers to accommodate your fluctuating temperature. If your work requires a uniform, request alternative clothing options that would allow you to remove a layer when needed.
Modify your work environment:
- Optimize temperature: consider using fans, portable air conditioners or dehumidifiers for comfort.
- Request access to a refrigerator to store 2–3 wearable cold packs, which can be rotated throughout the day.
- Keep a thermos of ice water easily accessible in your workspace.