What can be done about hot flushes after treatment for breast cancer?
Kontos M., Agbaje OF., Rymer J., Fentiman IS.
Breast cancer survivors frequently experience severe hot flushes as a result of their treatment. This can adversely affect their quality of life, compliance with treatment and overall survival. To relieve vasomotor symptoms, a variety of drugs have been used including clonidine, gabapentin, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Stellate ganglion block (SGB) has recently emerged as a new technique against hot flushes and preliminary studies report encouraging efficacy with minimal complications. Other approaches include various alternative treatments and, in a few cases, hormone replacement therapy (HRT). All randomized, controlled studies of drugs, hormone treatments and alternative therapies for vasomotor symptoms have been reviewed and efficacy and safety noted. Side-effects of current medical treatments frequently outweigh the benefits--leading many patients to discontinue the medications. Statistically significant differences between placebo and test agent may not translate into a meaningful subjective benefit. Desvenlafaxine looks promising as does SGB, despite its invasive nature. The favorable safety profile of SGB is confirmed through the long experience of SGB performed for other medical purposes. The majority of non-HRT treatments for hot flushes are little better than placebo but early results from randomized trials of desvenlafaxine and pilot studies of SGB suggest that it is worthwhile to test their efficacy specifically in breast cancer survivors.