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Fever, Sweats, and Hot Flashes (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Sweats and Hot Flashes


Prostate cancer

Data regarding the pathophysiology and management of hot flashes in men with prostate cancer are scant. The limited data that exist suggest that hot flashes are related to changes in sex hormone levels that caused instability in the hypothalamic thermoregulatory center analogous to the proposed mechanism of hot flashes that occur in women. As with women with breast cancer, hot flashes impair the quality of life for men with prostate cancer who are receiving androgen deprivation therapy. The vasodilatory neuropeptide, calcitonin gene–related peptide, may be instrumental in the genesis of hot flashes. With the exception of clonidine, the agents mentioned previously (refer to the Other pharmacologic interventions for hot flashes section of this summary) that have been found effective for hot flashes have shown similar rates of efficacy when studied in men. Treatment modalities include estrogens, progesterone, SSRIs, gabapentin 300 mg 3 times per day as an option for men,[92] and cyproterone acetate, an antiandrogen. The latter is not available in the United States.

One large, multisite study from France [93] randomly assigned men who were taking leuprorelin for prostate cancer to receive venlafaxine, 75 mg; cyproterone acetate (an antiandrogen), 100 mg; or medroxyprogesterone acetate, 20 mg, when they reported at least 14 hot flashes per week. All three treatments significantly reduced hot flashes, with cyproterone resulting in a 100% median reduction, medroxyprogesterone resulting in a 97% reduction, and venlafaxine resulting in a 57% reduction at 8 weeks. More adverse events were reported with cyproterone acetate, including one serious adverse event (dyspnea) attributable to the drug. Venlafaxine was not associated with any serious adverse events and overall had a 20% adverse event rate attributable to the drug. Medroxyprogesterone was the most well tolerated, with an adverse event rate of 12%, but with one serious event, urticaria. The most frequent side effects for all agents were related to gastrointestinal issues: nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.[93]

Pilot studies of the efficacy of the SSRIs paroxetine and fluvoxamine suggest these drugs decrease the frequency and severity of hot flashes in men with prostate cancer.[94,95] As for women with hormonally sensitive tumors, there are concerns about the effects of hormone use on the outcome of prostate cancer, in addition to other well-described side effects.[96]

Other Pharmacologic Interventions

Clinical experience suggests that the H2 blocker cimetidine may be useful in the management of cancer-associated sweats. Given the vascular action of 5-hydroxytryptamine, somatostatin analogs may play a role in the nonspecific management of sweats. The use of low-dose thioridazine for the management of sweats in advanced cancer is no longer advocated because of reports of torsade de pointes arrhythmias [97] and sudden death.[98]


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