Many people fear that they will have nausea and vomiting while receiving chemotherapy. However, these side effects are less common and often less severe than most people think. Effective antivomiting drugs can prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting in most people.
It is important that you tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms, especially if the vomiting lasts more than a day or if you cannot keep liquids down. You may feel sick a few hours after chemotherapy. Some people also have delayed side effects, feeling nauseous and vomiting a few days after treatment. This is still related to treatment, so be sure to tell your healthcare team.
There are several drugs available that are used to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting (called antiemetics). If you are taking chemotherapy drugs that carry a high risk of nausea and vomiting, you may receive treatment in advance of chemotherapy. Drugs can be given by mouth, injection, patch, or as a suppository.
Vomiting results from a complex set of nerve pathways between the brain and digestive system. Drugs work on these different pathways to ease symptoms. Examples include:
Remember that different drugs work for different people and finding the right combination can take some time. Your healthcare team will work with you to find the right combination.
Make arrangements with your insurance company in advance. Some drugs may not be covered under your current plan. If not, make sure to discuss your options with your healthcare team.
In addition to taking your medication, here are some steps that you can take to reduce nausea and vomiting:
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2017.
Coping with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Cancer Care website. Available at: https://media.cancercare.org/publications/original/7-ccc_nausea_chemo.pdf. Accessed November 9, 2017.
Managing nausea and vomiting at home. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/nausea-and-vomiting/nausea-and-vomiting.html. Updated February 13, 2017. Accessed November 9, 2017.
Medications to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/nausea-and-vomiting/nausea-and-vomiting-drugs.html. Updated February 13, 2017. Accessed November 9, 2017.
Toxicities of chemotherapeutic agents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115935/Toxicities-of-chemotherapeutic-agents. Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed November 9, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.