Does Cancer Cause Night Sweats?

Night sweats can be a symptom of many things, from certain types of cancer to hormonal changes. Medications and other health problems may also be to blame.

It’s no fun to wake up with your clothes and bedding soaked, but there are ways to make living with them easier.

Why Do You Get Them?

Night sweats can be linked to cancer and certain cancer treatments:

If cancer is to blame, you’ll have other symptoms, like a constant fever and unexplained weight loss.

Other things that can bring on night sweats include:

What Are the Symptoms?

You might notice:

  • Waking up soaking wet -- from your hair to your clothing to your sheets
  • Chills
  • A mild fever that leads to heavy sweating
  • Drenching sweats without a fever
  • A sudden, brief feeling of warmth accompanied by flushing or sweating

If you have a cancer diagnosis, call your treatment team or your doctor if you have:

  • Tremors or chills that cause you to shake
  • A fever of 100.5 F or higher (when you take your temperature by mouth) for over 24 hours

How to Manage Night Sweats

Take these simple steps to ease the discomfort:

  • If you have a fever, take medicine like acetaminophen -- so long as your doctor says it’s OK.
  • Change out of your wet clothes ASAP.
  • Change the sheets if you have to.
  • Bathe at least once a day to soothe your skin and stay clean.
  • Keep a fan on at night.
  • Don’t use too many blankets.
  • Sleep in fabrics that move moisture away from your skin.
  • Try a cool gel pillow.
  • Stick one foot outside the covers, to lower your body temperature.
  • Take a cool shower before bed.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.

You can also try relaxation and stress-reducing techniques like yoga, acupuncture, meditation, or breathing exercises. Some studies show that the slow and steady rhythm of breathing may ease night sweats and help you get back to sleep.

Late in the day, and especially just before bedtime, don’t:

None of these things will prevent night sweats, but they should help ease your symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on October 10, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Brian Cook, MD, Sampson Radiation Oncology, Clinton, NC.

UpToDate: “Approach to the patient with night sweats.”

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: “What’s the Connection between Night Sweats and Cancer?”

Mayo Clinic: “Night sweats: Causes.”

National Health Service: “Night Sweats.”

American Cancer Society: “Sweating.”

American Osteopathic Association: “Don't Lose Sleep Over Night Sweats.”

© 2017 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.