Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy can cause nausea and vomiting. Some other drugs, such as targeted therapy and immunotherapy can cause nausea and vomiting too. There many different kinds of each type of treatment. Some can make you have nausea and/or vomiting while others might not. Sometimes the type of cancer you have can make you have nausea and vomiting too.
How likely you are to have nausea and vomiting while getting treatment depends on many things, including:
- The types of treatment used. Drugs that travel through the body are more likely to cause nausea and vomiting than treatment that only affects one area of the body, such as radiation therapy. And, some drugs are more likely than others to cause nausea and vomiting
- The dose of the drugs (higher doses can be more likely to cause nausea and vomiting, especially certain chemo drugs)
- When and how often the drug is given. For example, if doses of a chemo drug that causes nausea and vomiting are given close together, there’s less time for the person to recover from the effects of the last dose before the next one is given.
- How the drugs are given. For instance, chemo given through a vein (intravenous, or by IV) may cause nausea and vomiting much faster than a drug given by mouth. This is because the drug given by IV is absorbed faster.
- Individual differences – not every person will have the same response to a dose or type of treatment.
- Having a tumor in the brain, liver, or gastrointestinal tract may increase the risk for nausea and vomiting.
- Other drugs (such as pain medicines) that may cause or worsen nausea and/or vomiting.
Some personal risk factors that may make you more likely to have nausea and vomiting include:
- Being female
- Being younger
- Having had morning sickness during pregnancy
- Being very anxious or nervous
- Having ever had motion sickness
- Being prone to vomiting when you are sick
- Having been a non-drinker or light drinker (of alcohol)
- Having had chemo in the past
There’s no way to know for sure if you will have nausea and vomiting, but your doctor will consider these things when choosing anti-nausea and vomiting medicines to use with your cancer treatment.
Here are some tips for managing nausea:
- Eat small amounts of food all day long, so you don’t feel full too quickly.
- Eat dry foods that are less likely to upset your stomach, like crackers, toast, and cereal.
- Stay away from greasy foods that might disagree with your stomach.
- Try ginger-based foods to help ease nausea. These include ginger ale, ginger tea, or crystallized ginger eaten as a snack.
- Sit up after eating — lying down after meals may disrupt digestion.
- Rinse your mouth before and after meals to get rid of any bad tastes that may make you nauseated.
- Ask someone to cook for you or order take-out so you can avoid strong smells that may be unpleasant for you.
- Ask your doctor about anti-nausea medications that you can take before or along with your breast cancer treatment. There are also anti-nausea medications you can take with pain medications that nauseate you.
- Consider complementary and holistic techniques such as acupuncture, relaxation, and visualization to reduce nausea.