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Managing Nausea From Cancer Treatment: Care Instructions

Overview

Cancer and the treatments for it can sometimes make you sick to your stomach (nauseated) or make you vomit. If these side effects aren't managed, you can lose too much fluid (dehydration). But you can work with your doctor to manage these problems.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine to keep you from feeling sick to your stomach (anti-nausea medicine). You also can do a few things at home to help manage your nausea and feel better. Make sure to get enough to eat and drink so that you stay hydrated, prevent weight loss, and keep up your strength.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Medicines

  • Talk to your care team if you have nausea or are vomiting. These side effects from cancer treatment can almost always be controlled with medicine. If you are taking medicine and are still vomiting, you may need to try a different medicine.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking and being around smoke can make nausea worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Eating and drinking

  • To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids. Choose water and other caffeine-free clear liquids. You may also try fruit juices, flavoured ice pops, and broths. If you have kidney, heart, or liver disease and have to limit fluids, talk with your doctor before you increase the amount of fluids you drink.
  • Eat small, frequent meals or snacks. When you don't feel like eating a meal, try apple or grape juice, weak teas, clear broths, dry toast, cooked cereal, or gelatin dessert. Avoid citrus juices and lemonade.
  • Make the most of the days when your appetite is good. Ask friends and family to help you shop and cook. Have meals delivered to your home. Or have lunch at a community or senior center.
  • Try frequent, small portions of meal supplements, such as Ensure, to get extra calories and protein. Try different kinds to find out which ones you like. Your doctor, nurse, or dietitian can help. They may have samples for you to try.
  • Don't force yourself to eat when you feel sick. Limit sounds, sights, and smells that make you feel sick.
  • Try eating food cool, cold, or at room temperature.
  • Have peppermint candy or peppermint gum handy. It can help settle your stomach.
  • Eat a light meal or snack before your chemotherapy so that you have something in your stomach. If your chemo takes several hours, bring a light meal or snacks.

More ways to care for yourself

  • Ask your doctor about other ways that you may find relief, such as:
    • Medical cannabis. It can be used to treat nausea and loss of appetite from cancer treatments.
    • Acupuncture, progressive muscle relaxation, or biofeedback.
    • Keeping a journal of your symptoms. Make sure to include the specific symptoms you have, the time of day, how long they last, and any foods or activities that seem to make them worse. This journal may help your doctor prescribe medicines to control your symptoms.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You can't keep down fluids or medicines.
  • You think you are dehydrated.
  • You have new or worse belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have nausea and vomiting that doesn't go away after you take anti-nausea medicine.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.