Mimi Murphy's Medical Breakthroughs: Treating Hot Flashes with Antidepressants

Medical Breakthroughs
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Hot flashes can disrupt your life. Women tend to get them after menopause and some men experience them after treatment for prostate cancer.

But women who've had treatment for breast cancer suffer more than most. Now there's a non-hormonal way to fight hot flashes, antidepressants.

Cher Joel is passionate about the 1950's, "a more simpler time." A time long before Cher was successfully treated for barest cancer and long before the hot flashes hit.

" I couldn't dance for very long," said Cher. Hot flashes kept her away form her favorite hobby, and from living a normal life. She had up to 50 drenching hot flashes a day.

"Instant sweat down my back, down my face. My hair was hot," Cher said.

And it wasn't just the seating because as soon as the hot flashes stopped, Cher would shiver from intense chills. But treatment is helping. Dr. Charles Loprinzi says there are three reasons women who've been treated for breast cancer have hot flashes. First, surgery and chemotherapy can cause early menopause.

"Secondly, we give them tamoxifen. Tamoxifen is one of the better anti-cancer drugs and one of the main side effects of hot flashes," said Dr. Loprinzi.

And third, breast cancer. Patients can't take estrogen, which does decrease hot flashes for post-menopausal women. Dr. Loprinzi's research shows antidepressants reduce severity and frequency of hot flashes fro most women who take them. Instead of 50.

Researchers believe hot flashes are likely caused by changes in hormone levels that effect seretonin and other chemicals in the brain. New antidepressants work to bring these chemical levels into balance, helping to reduce hot flashes.