Vomiting and nausea are two of the most irritating and annoying side effects that face cancer patients after a chemotherapy session. That is why many patients seek to postpone or even cancel their next chemo dose just to dodge this kind of side effects. 

Cancer treatment and the accompanying side effects are more distressing to the patients psyche than the fact of having the illness itself. According to some researches, the fear of the anticipated side effects renders patients in a state of anxiety and depression. This definitely is not going the make the situation any better, so what can we do do to avoid this catastrophic result? 

In the beginning we should make an important disclaimer: A patient can experience nausea without vomiting in the 24 hours that follow the chemotherapy dose, or even after the 24 hours have passed. Vomiting can happen up to 8 days after the dose. 

How do the nausea and vomiting happen?

Nausea happens when the nervous system gets stimulated as a reaction to the chemotherapy. Nausea symptoms include: pale skin, sweating, feeling hot or cold all the time.

on the other hand, vomiting occurs as a natural reaction to the toxins that are in the chemotherapy, that causes rapture in the cells of the stomach and the small intestine.

We should also bear in mind that not everybody is prone to nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy. There are causes that make certain people more susceptible than others to vomiting. If you know these causes before you embark on your treatment plan and expect to have those unpleasant side effects, then maybe you want to tell your physician about it so he or she can help you navigate through them.

Now let us move on to identifying the factors that can make you more susceptible to vomiting and nausea. If you answer "yes" to the following questions, this means that you are more likely to suffer the previously mentioned side effects.

  • Are you a woman?
  • Are you less than 50 years old?
  • Did you experience vomiting and nausea as side effects to other medications?
  • Do get get seasick? 
  • Do you suffer from anxiety disorders?
  • Did you suffer from vomiting and nausea during pregnancy?
  • Do you usually suffer from vomiting and nausea when your are sick?
  • Have you ever had alcoholic drinks?

Those factors walk hand in hand with the kind of medications used in chemotherapy and whether the patient undergoes radiation therapy along with chemotherapy or not. The amount of medications that the patient receives in chemotherapy is also a key factor. For some medications, the probability of vomiting and nausea drops significantly when the amount of the medications is on the smaller side.

What are the recommended methods to prevent nausea and vomiting?

  • Give your doctor a heads-up about your condition so that he or she can describe some anti nausea medication before your dose. Your doctor will also advise you on when and how often you should take this medication because it is very difficult to control nausea once it kicks in. 
  • There are other methods that can help you, however it will definitely not substitute the anti nausea medication, such as:
  1. Eating many small meals instead of eating a few big ones.
  2. Avoid sweets and greasy or fried food, and eat your meals cold.
  3. Drink a lot of fluids, especially cold ones, and unsweetened juices and ginger as ginger has magical effects in preventing nausea and vomiting if you have one cup of it before the chemotherapy session. It is also recommended to have many small portions of these drinks throughout the day instead of drinking big amounts of them at once.
  4. Stay away from foul smells, go out for fresh air, take deep breaths and do some meditation.
  5. Do not exert much effort after eating and try not to lie down a lot.

In the end, I wish all patients a speedy recovery!


Dina Sabbah
Pharmacist, Al Azhar University of Gaza graduate. Interested in health awareness .