Night sweats: menopause or cancer?It’s important to remember that, while night sweats are sometimes a symptom of cancer, experiencing them does not necessarily mean that a person has cancer. Your brain may immediately fear the worst. Your first thought might be: night sweats, menopause or cancer? However, there are many different possible causes of night sweats that may not necessarily come from either. If you do begin experiencing these symptoms, you should consult your GP to identify the underlying cause.
What cancers cause night sweats?There are several factors that tend to cause night sweats in cancer patients. These are:
- Certain cancer medications: In particular, chemotherapy drugs, morphine and hormone treatments, can trigger night sweats in cancer patients. Night sweats during chemo treatment is fairly common; however, if you believe that your medication may be disturbing your sleep, it’s important that you speak to your GP or consultant to discuss your concerns.
- Certain types of cancer: What cancers cause night sweats? Cancers associated with night sweats include bone cancer, carcinoid tumours, leukaemia and liver cancer, although they can affect people with other types of cancer too. There is also a connection between drenching night sweats and lymphoma specifically (see below).
- Infections: Night sweats in cancer patients can also be a sign that your body is fighting infection. Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can weaken the immune system, so cancer patients can be more susceptible to infections.
Lymphoma and night sweats
While various types of cancer can cause increased sweating, there is a particular association between lymphoma and night sweats. Both Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can cause you to wake feeling hot and clammy, even resulting in drenching night sweats.
It’s not known exactly why lymphoma and night sweats correlate. However, it may either be the body’s way of coping with an increase in temperature at night or a reaction to abnormal proteins and hormones produced by the lymphoma itself.
Dealing with severe night sweats and cancerIf you are struggling with excessive night sweats and cancer treatment, your first step should always be to speak with your doctor, nurse or consultant. They may be able to help you identify the cause of your night sweats – is it medication, an underlying infection or the cancer itself? They will provide you with specific advice based on this. Depending on the cause, they may also be able to prescribe you additional medication or adjust your current treatment to alleviate the symptoms.
To help your doctor give you the best possible advice, you may want to keep a diary of your night sweats and take this to your appointment.
Our tips for coping with night sweats and cancerWe recommend these night sweats treatments to help alleviate some of the symptoms for a better night’s sleep:
- Keep your bedroom well ventilated at night: Leave a window open if you can or keep a fan running. Make sure that you keep central heating turned off or turned down to a minimum at bedtime.
- Watch what you eat: Certain food and drink can trigger night sweats, so it is wise to avoid them in the hours before bed. Common triggers include:
- Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and cola
- Alcohol including wine, spirits and beer
- Hot and spicy foods such as curry, chilli or peppery sauces
- Wear natural fibres: Opt for pyjamas or a nightdress in either cotton or silk, as these fibres are more breathable and also better able to absorb moisture, helping you to stay cool and dry, not clammy.
- Choose natural fibres for your bed too: Cotton sheets and covers will help to keep you cool as it helps to reduce moisture on the skin. For maximum benefit, try using wool, as this natural fibre is even more absorbent than cotton. A complete wool bedding set will help you get the rest and relaxation you deserve.
Looking for more information about common sleep issues? Visit our Sleep Health & Advice hub.