Nausea and Vomiting During Cancer Treatment

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All You Wanted to Know About
Nausea & Vomiting
In Cancer Treatment

Nausea and Vomiting During Cancer Treatment

Are Nausea and Vomiting Common During Cancer Treatment?

Yes. Nausea and Vomiting are the commonest side-effects seen in the treatment of cancer. Following are some facts to be aware of regarding nausea and vomiting.

Nausea (feeling like vomiting) cannot be self-controlled. Vomiting is a reflex controlled by a vomiting centre in the brain. Smell taste, anxiety, pain, motion, poor blood flow, irritation, etc. can turn on Nausea and Vomiting.

What are the Causes of Nausea and Vomiting?

The common causes of Nausea and Vomiting during cancer treatment are as below:

  • Chemotherapy drugs.
  • Radiation therapy in general (in sensitive people); in particular when directed at the digestive system, liver or brain.

Nausea and Vomiting are also more likely to occur under the following conditions:

  •   History of severe episodes of Nausea and Vomiting after chemotherapy sessions.
  • Female gender.
  • Younger than 50 years of age.
  • Presence of fluid and/or electrolyte (salts) imbalance (increased calcium, decreased water, or an increase in the fluid in the body tissues).
  • Presence of a tumour in the digestive tract, liver, or brain.
  • Constipation.
  • Undergoing treatment with certain drugs, e.g. antimalarials, painkillers.

  • Presence of an infection or blood poisoning.
    • Kidney disease.
    • Experiencing anxiety.

What can one do to Feel Better?

Making changes in one's lifestyle may be helpful in relieving the symptoms and may improve the effectiveness of anti-Nausea and anti-Vomiting drugs.


Nausea and Vomiting caused by cancer treatment can affect the amount and kinds of food one can eat. The following points may, therefore, help to control them:

  • Eating before the treatments.
  • Rinsing the mouth before and after eating.
  • Eating foods that are bland, soft, and easy-to-digest, rather than heavy meals.

  •    Eating small meals several times a day.
  • Eating dry foods such as crackers, bread sticks, or toast throughout the day.
    • Sipping fluids throughout the day.

  • Sucking on hard candies such as peppermints or lemon.
    • Staying away from foods that are likely to cause Nausea, e.g. spicy, greasy and foods with strong odours.
    •   Sitting up or lying with the upper body raised for one hour after eating.

  • Avoiding eating in a room that has cooking odours or that is very warm; the living space should be maintained at a comfortable temperature, with exposure to plenty of fresh air.

  • Limiting the use of caffeine, including colas and other caffeinated soft drinks/preparations, coffee and tea.
  • Optimizing oral hygiene, especially after episodes of vomiting. Rinse mouth with a mixture of 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt in two cups of water.

Environmental Modification

  • Eliminating strong smells.
  • Wearing loose clothing.

  • If possible, eating in a place with a relaxed, calm atmosphere. A well- ventilated room may also be helpful.

Complementary Therapies

  • Acupuncture or acupressure may be useful in lessening the Vomiting.

  • Practicing positive thinking may keep the mind away from thoughts of Nausea and Vomiting.

When Should the Doctor be Consulted?

It is very important to call the doctor if any one of the following occurs:

  • There is blood, or "coffee grounds"- type substance in the vomit.

  • Cannot keep any liquids or food down, i.e. repeated Vomiting.
  • Vomiting three times an hour for more than eight hours.
  • Vomiting and losing more than 1 kg in a day.

  • Nausea that lasts for more than a few days, keeping one away from daily activity or having proper meal.
  • The vomit shoots out forcefully (projectile vomiting).
  • Severe stomach pain while Vomiting.
  • Showing signs of decreased water content:
    • Mouth and tongue feel dry.
    • Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or can't think clearly.
    • Urine is dark yellow and the frequency of urination is less than normal.
    • Cramps in the stomach or legs, or hands and feet tingle or feel like "pins and needles".

Can any Medication be Taken for Nausea and Vomiting?


The doctor will advise about which one to take, and how to take it. Do not mix medicines without consulting the doctor. The most common medications for Nausea and Vomiting are Prochlorperazine, Metoclopramide, Ondansetron, Granisetron, Palonosetron, Droperidol, Aprepitant etc.




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