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Cancer Treatment

COPING WITH CHEMOTHERAPY: Nausea and Vomiting

Posted: June 15, 2021

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Chemotherapy, a medication used to attack and kill malignant cancer cells, is an effective method to treat cancer. However, these drugs are very powerful and usually cause some undesirable side effects, including nausea, vomiting, hair loss, fatigue, low blood counts, and sore throat & mouth. These side effects do not occur all at once and can appear in varying degrees at different times within the treatment cycles. Here is some helpful information regarding nausea and vomiting following your chemotherapy treatment at Cancer Care Northwest (CCNW).

 

What causes nausea and vomiting?

Certain kinds of chemotherapy can affect the stomach and/or the area of the brain that controls the urge to vomit. Most often nausea and/or vomiting (emesis) is a direct physical reaction to chemotherapy, but if you have a strong gag reflex, just the association of chemotherapy and nausea can cause you to vomit or retch.

 

How soon does it begin and how long does it last?

This particular reaction to chemotherapy varies from one person to the next. Some people do not experience nausea or vomiting during or after chemotherapy. Some feel a little nauseated over a longer period of time. Others feel very nauseated over a shorter period of time. Most often, the symptoms of nausea/vomiting go away within 48 hours. Depending on the type of chemotherapy treatment, sometimes the symptoms last for up to one week.

 

How to Cope with Nausea and Vomiting

Your quality of life can be affected by nausea and vomiting, but there are several techniques you can learn to cope with this problem.

What to Do:

  • Take slow, deep breaths when you feel nauseated
  • Distract yourself by exercising, taking a walk, talking, listening to music or watching T.V.
  • Use relaxation techniques
  • Sleep during periods of intense nausea

TIPS

  • Avoid your favorite foods during periods of nausea.
  • Avoid pairing a single favorite distraction with treatment.
  • Remember to avoid those things you associate with nausea/vomiting and treatment; keep your favorite things your favorite!

 

How to relieve these symptoms

If these coping mechanisms are not working, there are some things you can do for yourself to help relieve the symptoms.

What to Do:

  • Take prescribed antiemetic medications before arriving for chemotherapy
  • Eat bland foods (i.e. mashed potatoes, applesauce, sherbet, crackers, toast, cottage cheese)
  • Try sour foods (i.e. lemons, sour pickles, hard sour candy, lemon sherbet)
  • Eat cold foods
  • Drink liquids 1 hour before and after meals, instead of with your meals
  • Chew food well; eat and drink slowly
  • Prepare and freeze meals ahead of time
  • Wait 2 hours after a meal before lying down and/or rest sitting up
  • For morning nausea, try eating dry foods (toast, cereal or crackers) before getting out of bed. Do not try this if you have mouth or throat sores or a dry mouth.
  • Sip cool, clear, unsweetened fruit juices or soft drinks diluted with water
  • Suck on ice cubes, mints, or tart candies. Don’t use tart candies if you have mouth sores
  • Wear loose fitting clothing

TIPS

  • Avoid big meals; eating several little meals (5-6) throughout the day is much better.
  • Avoid sweet, fried, salty, spicy, fatty or strong-smelling foods. Eating cold foods or foods at room temperature is a simple way to decrease your nausea.
  • If you are already vomiting, start a clear liquid diet (popsicles, gelatin, tea, broth, ice chips) and call your doctor.

 

We’re here for you

Your Cancer Care Northwest doctor or nurse can give you more suggestions for relief of nausea and vomiting, so be sure to ask if you have any questions or concerns. Side effects can be successfully managed with open communication between you and your doctor. Because you and CCNW are a team — we are here for you and want to help in any way we can.