A small study found that relaxation training helped ease hot flashes in women being treated for breast cancer.
Of 150 women having treatment-related hot flashes, about half were taught three relaxation techniques:
- deep breathing
- muscle release (also called progressive muscle relaxation)
- guided imagery
The other half discussed managing hot flashes with a nurse. The women who learned the relaxation techniques used them at least twice a week for 1 to 3 months and had slightly fewer and less severe hot flashes than women who talked about hot flashes with a nurse. The women who used relaxation techniques also were less stressed about breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, ovarian shutdown with medicine, and surgical ovary removal all can cause hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms that can range from bothersome to quite severe.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help ease hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, but women diagnosed with breast cancer should avoid this treatment because it could promote the growth of hormone-sensitive breast cancer cells.
Research on most complementary/holistic therapies is relatively new. Most of the studies, like the one reviewed here, are small. Some studies have shown that some complementary/holistic therapies may help ease hot flashes, as well as some treatment-related side effects in some people. When combined with conventional medicine, complementary/holistic therapies may offer a more integrated approach to healing.
In the breastcancer.org Complementary Medicine section you can learn about 16 types of complementary techniques, including muscle release and guided imagery. You'll learn about:
- what to expect
- how to find a qualified practitioner
- important things to consider before trying a technique
If you're having treatment-related hot flashes, you also might want to visit the All About Hot Flashes page to learn more about hot flashes, how to avoid them, and how to manage them.