Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Nausea and Vomiting

Some chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting, or both as a side effect. You may also dry heave, which is when your body tries to vomit even though your stomach is empty. Nausea and vomiting can occur while you are receiving chemotherapy, immediately after treatment, or many hours or days later. You will most likely feel better on the days you do not receive chemotherapy. New drugs can help prevent nausea and vomiting. These are called anti-emetic or anti-nausea drugs. You may need to take these medications one hour before each chemotherapy treatment and for a few days after treatment. How long you take them after chemotherapy depends on the type of chemotherapy you are getting and how you react to it. If one anti-nausea drug does not work well for you, your doctor can prescribe a different one. You may need to take more than one type of drug to help with nausea


Ways to Manage Nausea and Vomiting:

  • Prevent nausea. One way to prevent vomiting is to minimise nausea. Eating bland, easy-to-digest foods and drinks that do not upset your stomach can help to reduce nausea. Eating plain crackers, toast and gelatin can also help settle your stomach.
  • Plan when it’s best for you to eat or drink. Some people feel better when they eat a light meal or snack before chemotherapy. Others feel better when they have chemotherapy on an empty stomach (nothing to eat of drink for 2 to 3 hours before treatment). After treatment, wait at least an hour before you eat or drink.
  • Eat small meals and snacks. Instead of three large meals each day you might feel better if you eat 5 or 6 small meals and snacks. Do not drink a lot before or during meals. Also, do not lie down right after you eat.
  • Have foods and drinks that are warm or cool (not hot or cold). Give hot foods and drinks time to cool down, or make them cooler by adding ice. You can warm up cold foods by taking them out of the refrigerator an hour before you eat or warming them slightly in a microwave. Drink cola or ginger ale that is warm and has lost its fizz.
  • Stay away from foods and drinks with strong smells including coffee, fish, onions, garlic and foods that are cooking.
    Take small bites of popsicles or fruit ices. You may also find sucking on ice chips helpful.
  • Suck on sugar-free mints or tart candies. Do not use tart candies if you have mouth or throat sores.
  • Relax before treatment. You may feel less nausea if you relax before each chemotherapy treatment. Meditate, try deep breathing exercises or imagine scenes or experiences that make you feel peaceful. Things like reading, listening to music, or knitting can help keep you calm.
  • When you feel like vomiting, breathe deeply and slowly to get plenty of fresh air. You might also distract yourself by chatting with friends or family, listening to music, or watching a movie or TV.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse. Your doctor can give you drugs to help prevent nausea during and after your chemotherapy. Be sure to take these drugs as ordered and let your doctor or nurse know if they do not work. You might also ask your doctor or nurse about acupuncture, which can help relieve nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you vomit for more than one day or right after you drink.

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