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Nausea in Cancer Patients

Updated at: Jan 13, 2013
Written by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 13, 2013
Nausea in Cancer Patients

Nausea is a problem that cancer patients face. Nausea almost always goes away once treatment ends.

What it is?

Nausea occurs when you feel queasy or sick to your stomach. It may be followed by vomiting (throwing up), but not always. Nausea can keep you from getting the food and nutrients you need. Not everyone gets nausea and those who do may get it right after a treatment or up to 3 days later. Nausea almost always goes away once treatment ends.

Why it happens?

Nausea can be a side effect of surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and radiation therapy to the abdomen, small intestine, colon, or brain. It can also be caused by certain types of cancer or other illnesses.

Ways to manage with food

  •     Eat foods that are easy on your stomach. These include white toast, plain or vanilla yogurt, and clear broth. Try lemon, lime, or other tart-flavored foods. See more ideas of foods that are easy on the stomach.
  •     Eat 5 or 6 small meals each day instead of 3 large meals. Many people find it easier to eat smaller amounts, more often.
  •     Do not skip meals and snacks. Even if you do not feel hungry, you should still eat. For many people, having an empty stomach makes nausea worse.
  •     Choose foods that appeal to you. Do not force yourself to eat any food that makes you feel sick. At the same time, do not eat your favorite foods, so you don’t link them to feeling sick.
  •     Sip only small amounts of liquids during meals. Many people feel full or bloated if they eat and drink at the same time.
  •     Have liquids throughout the day. Drink slowly. Sip liquids through a straw. Or, drink from a water bottle.
  •     Have foods and drinks that are not too hot and not too cold. Let hot foods and drinks cool down and cold foods and drinks warm up before you eat or drink them. You can cool hot foods and drinks by adding ice or warm up cold foods in a microwave.
  •     Eat dry toast or crackers before getting out of bed if you have nausea in the morning.
  •     Plan when it is best for you to eat and drink. Some people feel better when they eat a light meal or snack before treatment. Others feel better when they have treatment on an empty stomach (nothing to eat or drink for 2 to 3 hours before).

Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if antinausea medicine does not help.

Other ways to manage

   1. Talk with your doctor about medicine to prevent nausea (antiemetics or antinausea medicines). Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if the medicines are not helping. If one medicine does not work well, your doctor may prescribe another. You may need to take them 1 hour before each treatment and for a few days after. The type of cancer treatment you get and how you react to it affects how long you need to take these medicines.
      Acupuncture may also help. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you want to try it.
   2. Talk with a dietitian about ways to get enough to eat even if you have nausea.
   3. Relax before each cancer treatment. You may feel better if you try deep breathing, meditation, or prayer. Many people relax with quiet activities such as reading or listening to music.
   4. Rest after meals. But do so sitting up, not lying down.
   5. Wear clothes that are comfortable and loose.Keep a record of when you feel nausea and why. Show this to your nurse, doctor, or dietitian. He or she might suggest ways to change your diet.
   6. Avoid strong food and drink smells. These include foods that are being cooked, coffee, fish, onions, and garlic. Ask a friend or family member to cook for you to help avoid cooking smells.
   7. Open a window or turn on a fan if your living area feels stuffy. Fresh air can help relieve nausea. Be sure not to eat in rooms that are too warm or stuffy.


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