Hot flashes can be a major problem for patients with a history of breast cancer. Although oestrogen can alleviate hot flashes to a large extent in most patients, there has been debate about the safety of oestrogen use in survivors of breast cancer. The decrease in hot flashes achieved with progestational agents is similar to that seen with oestrogen therapy but, again, there is some debate about the safety of progestational agents in patients with a history of breast cancer. Several alternative substances have therefore been investigated. These include a belladonna alkaloid preparation, clonidine, soy phyto-oestrogens, vitamin E, gabapentin, and several of the newer antidepressants, with venlafaxine being the best studied to date. Several studies in progress may provide better non-hormonal means of treating hot flashes in the future.
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