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Chemotherapy Side Effects: Nausea and Vomiting


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Chemotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting. 

  • Nausea is a feeling of queasiness in the stomach.
  • Vomiting (also called throwing up, emesis, and informally, barfing) is the forceful expulsion of the contents of one's stomach through the mouth and sometimes through the nose.

If, and when, nausea and vomiting will occur is individual to each of us, although it may be more common with some chemotherapies than others.

  • Nausea and vomiting can occur before treatment such as the day before or upon entering the health care faclility where chemotherapy is administered (anticipatory nausea/vomiting). Anticipatory nausea is very real even though it occurs before chemotherapy infusion.
  • A reaction can be experienced within minutes after adminstration of treatment or 4-6 hours after treatment or as much as 12 or even 24 hours later.  Some patients feel flu-like symptoms which can include nausea around the third day after treatment. Most people feel fine for the first hours after a treatment and find this is a good time to eat a meal.
  • Nausea and vomiting which occurs soon after administration of treatment may last a few hours. It usually resolves within 24 hours.  Nausea has been known to last 6 - 7 days. 

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are very nauseated, if you have been vomiting for more than a day, or if your nausea is so bad that you cannot keep liquids down. Anti-nausea medicines are very effective in relieving or preventing nausea and vomiting. Non-drug techniques also help with nausea. For example,

  • Rinse your mouth often to eliminate any bad taste.
  • Distract yourself with activities that you enjoy.
  • Avoid strongly scented foods.
  • Before chemo appointments, drink fluids and eat a light meal in addition to taking an anti-nausea drug.
  • For additional  tips for reducing the effects of nausea, click. here.

Consider carrying a bag with you "just in case" you get nauseous while outside the home.

Keep track of your symptoms to make a discussion with your doctor or other health care provider more useful. Survivorship A to Z provides a symptoms diary to help you keep track. When you are ready to see a doctor, a click of a button changes your diary into an easy to read graph. For information, see "To Learn More."    

Last, but not least, do what you can to increase your appetite.

For more information, see:

NOTE: Get a prescription for anti-nausea medication from your doctor and get it filled. Keep the medication with you when possible. It is better to stop nausea early than allow it to become vomiting. If payment for drugs is difficult, click here.

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