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Record-high temperatures and humidity are gripping the Tampa Bay area, causing the “feel like” temperature to reach up to 115 degrees. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory and warned that heat illness is possible.

People with cancer or those older than 65 are most at risk for severe health complications from the heat. People who have undergone cancer therapy can be at greater risk of dehydration and skin sensitivity to sun exposure. The effects of chemotherapy can impact the kidney, heart, lungs, thyroid or adrenal function and contribute to electrolyte and water changes that could be compounded in the heat. Those who have had radiation therapy that affected healthy skin and tissue near the tumor site are at increased risk of skin sensitivity to sun exposure or sunburn, making them more susceptible to skin cancer.

Make sure to be aware of your body and your surroundings to keep yourself as safe as possible.
Dr. Smitha Pabbathi, Survivorship Program

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Here are some tips to avoid dehydration, sunburn and other heat-related problems.

Nosh on This

  • Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. They can help hydrate and replenish electrolytes lost with increased sweating in hot weather.
  • Fruits: Watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, strawberries, oranges, peaches and grapes are excellent choices. Veggies: Iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, celery, zucchini and cauliflower are packed with water.
  • If drinking water isn’t your first choice, try adding your favorite fruit, veggies or zero-calorie flavoring. Beverages other than water can also be hydrating. This includes fresh squeezed juice, skim milk and coconut water. Try to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Broths and soups, as well as plain yogurt and cottage cheese, are good sources of water.
  • Ice pops and sorbets can make a cool treat.
  • Avoid or minimize consuming coffee, tea and alcohol, which are dehydrating.

Traveling to Appointments

  • When possible, schedule appointments early in the day.
  • Allow extra travel time.
  • Park in shaded areas.
  • Avoid travel and sun exposure during the midday when the heat index is the highest.
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Don’t forget hats, sunglasses and a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
  • Bring water, healthy snacks and any medication needed to help with the side effects of therapy.

Precautions for Outdoor Gatherings


Do you know how to recognize heat stroke and heat exhaustion? Here are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Decreased urine output
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dizziness and weakness
  • Red, hot skin
  • Temperature of 103 degrees or higher
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Confirm in advance if there will be shaded areas.
  • Apply a waterproof broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Don’t forget your ears, tops of your feet and the part in your hair.
  • Wear loose-fitting long sleeves, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Pack a lightweight folding chair and an umbrella to protect against the sun.
  • Bring plenty of water, other fluids and healthy snacks.
  • Have a backup plan for an early ride home or moving to a cooler indoor location.
  • If the UV index is 10 or higher, stay inside. And keep in mind that reflective surfaces like water and sand increase your risk of sunburn.

Exercise with Caution

  • Talk to your primary care doctor or oncologist before starting any activity.
  • People finished with treatment should be screened for late effects of cancer therapy, such as cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle) before starting an exercise program.
  • If you are cleared for physical activity, be mindful of when and where you exercise during the summer months.
  • Activities such as water aerobics or exercising in air-conditioned areas are options for staying cool while being active.
  • Exercise earlier in the day or later in the evenings to avoid the heat of midday.

“Make sure to be aware of your body and your surroundings to keep yourself as safe as possible,” said Dr. Smitha Pabbathi, medical director of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Survivorship Program. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice to be as healthy as you can during your cancer journey.”

Moffitt’s Survivorship Program helps patients address challenges after completing therapy. The clinic will follow patients for surveillance of their primary cancer. The goal is to advocate for personalized, comprehensive care after diagnosis and treatment, ultimately improving quality of life.