16.13 Sweating in palliative care

Excessive sweating occurs in about 16% of patients with advanced cancer. It is sometimes a symptom of the cancer, but also can be a side effect of medications e.g. hormonal treatments for breast and prostate cancer. It occurs more commonly at night and may necessitate changes of clothes or bedding.


  • Treat any underlying cause, including infection (if appropriate)
  • Reduce room temperature, remove excessive bedding, increase ventilation, use a fan
  • Clothing is important: synthetic materials used as "wicking" fabrics commonly in sport can be bought for a low cost from high street shops. Cotton clothes and bedclothes get cold when wet and can wake people up at night.
  • Maintain fluid intake to avoid dehydration
  • Review medication and prescribe an alternative if possible


Sweating with pyrexia:
  • Paracetamol
  • NSAID e.g. Ibuprofen

Sweating without pyrexia (tumour associated) or due to hormone insufficiency – seek specialist advice.


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