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Hot flashes

Dr. Christine Maheu, RN, PhD

Dr. Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor in the Ingram School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Maheu is also an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. At McGill University, she teaches research methods, supervises graduate students (masters, doctoral, post-doctoral), mentors practicing nurses and students in research, and conducts research in English and French. She has held research awards with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. These awards funded her research in psychosocial oncology, which focuses on developing and testing psychosocial interventions or measurements tools for various cancer populations. Additionally, in partnership with Ipsos Canada and funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, she is co-leading a nationwide survey of the needs of cancer patients for transition care from the end of their treatment to three years after their diagnosis. Dr. Maheu received awards for excellence in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and the Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology.

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Ms. Rosemary Cashman

Ms. Rosemary Cashman is a nurse practitioner at the BC Cancer Agency and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Her professional experience includes the care of lymphoma, lung cancer and brain cancer patients. She co-chairs the Patient and Family Advisory Council, which guides the brain tumour care program at the BC Cancer Agency. She has authored book chapters and articles related to the care of brain tumour patients and their families. Ms. Cashman was involved in developing and implementing a rapid-access radiotherapy clinic for the palliative treatment of lung cancer and she continues to work in this clinic.

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Kyla Johnson, Occupational Therapist, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital

Ms. Kyla Johnson, M.Sc.A., originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Kyla Johnson works as an Occupational Therapist at the Segal Cancer Center of the Jewish General Hospital. She holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from McGill University. Her goal as a rehabilitation professional in Oncology is to enable people with cancer to be able to do what they want and need to do, in all stages of their cancer experience. Kyla helps develop strategies and accommodations to facilitate a return to meaningful life roles, including work. She is specialized in cancer-related cognitive dysfunction and runs a weekly group teaching strategies to improve daily cognitive functioning. Kyla also leads a volunteer yoga class for young adults with cancer. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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Ms. Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, M.Ed. C.C.R.C, BC Cancer

Ms. Maureen Parkinson is the province-wide vocational rehabilitation counsellor at the BC Cancer Agency. She has also been vocational rehabilitation counsellor at a public rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation consultant to insurance companies and the court system. She has instructed and facilitated Service-Canada-funded programs on job searching and career exploration. Ms. Parkinson has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program through the National Institute for Disability Management and Research. She has developed return-to-work and job-search seminars for cancer patients and created the guidebook “Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients” as well as on-line articles about returning to work and school. She also co-authored a paper commissioned by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, “Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective”.

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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.

Vocational implications

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
  • acupuncture3
  • hypnosis4
  • cognitive behavioural therapy
  • dietary changes

You may want to speak to your family doctor about natural supplements.

Job accommodations

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.


Breathing problems

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