Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting (throwing up) are side effects that many people associate with cancer treatment, especially chemotherapy. But not all chemotherapy causes nausea. And, chemotherapy is not the only cause of nausea. 

Nausea and vomiting that are caused by cancer therapy are classified as follows: 
  • Acute nausea and vomiting: Usually occurs within 24 hours after beginning chemotherapy. 
  • Delayed nausea and vomiting: Occurs more than 24 hours after chemotherapy. Also called late nausea and vomiting. 
  • Anticipatory nausea and vomiting: If a patient has had nausea and vomiting after the previous 3 or 4 chemotherapy treatments, he or she may experience anticipatory nausea and vomiting. The smells, sights, and sounds of the treatment room may remind the patient of previous episodes and may trigger nausea and vomiting before a new cycle of chemotherapy (or radiation therapy) has even begun. 
  • Chronic nausea and vomiting: May affect people who have advanced cancer. It is not well understood. 
Studies strongly suggest that patients receiving chemotherapy experience more acute and delayed nausea and vomiting than is estimated by health care providers. 

Strategies for Managing Loss of Appetite: 
Prevention works best, so ask your doctor about anti-nausea medications and take them on time and according to instructions. 
  • Eat and drink slowly. 
  • Try beverages such as peppermint tea, ginger ale, or ginger tea. 
  • Eat small, frequent meals. 
  • Eat food served at room temperature. 
  • Suck on ice cubes, mints, or candies. 
  • Rest in a chair after meals. Do not lie flat for at least two hours after you have finished eating. 
  • Eat crackers, toast, soft or bland fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, clear liquids, and ice. 
  • Eat foods prepared with moist heat, such as soups, stews, and casseroles. 
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking. 
Strategies for Managing Nausea or Vomiting: 
  • Avoid greasy, fatty, fried, spicy, and very sweet foods. 
  • Avoid highly seasoned, spicy, tart, or acidic foods (no citrus foods or tomatoes). 
  • Keep your caloric intake high by using supplemental types of drinks, such as 
  • Ensure® or Boost®. 
  • If cooking odors make you feel nauseated, try to (1) microwave your meals, (2) use a strong venting fan while cooking, and (3) use frozen or chilled foods, which give off fewer odors. 
  • Talk with your doctor about complementary treatments like acupuncture and acupressure to relieve nausea. 
  • Mind-body techniques such as music therapy or guided imagery may also ease nausea. 

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