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Vomiting in Cancer Patients

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

What it is ?

Vomiting is another way to say “throwing up.”

Why it happens ?

Vomiting may follow nausea and be caused by cancer treatment, food odors, motion, an upset stomach, or bowel gas. Some people vomit when they are in places (such as hospitals) that remind them of cancer. Vomiting, like nausea, can happen right after treatment or 1 or 2 days later. You may also have dry heaves, which occur when your body tries to vomit even though your stomach is empty.

Biological therapy, some types of chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to the abdomen, small intestine, colon, or brain can cause nausea, vomiting, or both. Often, this happens because these treatments harm healthy cells in your digestive track.

Ways to manage with food

  • Do not have anything to eat or drink until your vomiting stops.
  • Once the vomiting stops, drink small amounts of clear liquids (such as water or bouillon). Be sure to start slowly and take little sips at a time. For other ideas, see the list of clear liquids.
  • Once you can drink clear liquids without vomiting, try full-liquid foods and drinks or those that are easy on your stomach. You can slowly add back solid foods when you start feeling better. See the lists of full-liquid foods and foods and drinks that are easy on the stomach.
  • Eat 5 or 6 small meals each day instead of 3 large meals. Once you start eating, it may be easier to eat smaller amounts at a time. Do not eat your favorite foods at first, so that you do not begin to dislike them.

Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if your antinausea medicine is not helping.

Other ways to manage

  1. Talk with a dietitian. He or she can suggest foods to eat once your vomiting stops.
  2. Ask your doctor to prescribe medicine to prevent or control vomiting (antiemetics or antinausea medicines). Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if the medicine is not helping. Your doctor may prescribe another. You may need to take these medicines 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. You may also want to talk with your doctor or nurse about acupuncture. It might also help.
  3. Prevent nausea. One way to prevent vomiting is to prevent nausea. See the section on nausea to learn more.
  4. Call your doctor if your vomiting is severe or lasts for more than 1 or 2 days. Vomiting can lead to dehydration (which occurs when your body does not have enough water). Your doctor needs to know if you cannot keep liquids down.



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