Coping with Chemotherapy Nausea


Nausea and vomiting are among the most common side effects of chemotherapy. In many cases, these symptoms are severe. Those undergoing typically experience nausea and/or vomiting:

  • Within 2-4 hours of chemotherapy treatment
  • Again the day after treatment
  • Shortly before treatments (this is largely a learned, psychological response)

It has always been important for chemotherapy patients to control nausea, both for their comfort and because the toxic effects of chemotherapy are increased if the chemotherapy patient is unable to keep food and fluids down. Until fairly recently, there wasn’t much cancer patients could do other than using traditional nausea remedies like ginger and peppermint. In recent years, significant progress has been made in treating nausea caused by chemotherapy.

Many oncologists suggest treating nausea pre-emptively. Using medication to treat nausea before it actually occurs allows doctors to use higher doses of chemotherapy while allowing patients a good deal of relief from nausea.

There is no foolproof cure for chemotherapy induced nausea. Even using the best anti-nausea medications available, roughly 75% cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy will still deal with some degree of intermittent nausea. In many cases, though, the antiemetic medications can reduce nausea symptoms enough that the patient can continue to work and function more normally.

Many chemotherapy patients find that supplementing their medication with traditional nonmedical treatments helps them to better manage nausea symptoms. Some of the more popular non-medicinal methods of controlling nausea include:

  • Chiropractic care. You may not think of the chiropractor when you think of nausea, but perhaps you should.
  • Acupressure. There are several acupressure points which help quell nausea. Basic acupressure techniques are easy to learn and often bring fast relief. You can also purchase acupressure wristbands which apply constant pressure to help prevent nausea before it starts.
  • Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses scented oils to help improve mood and soothe nausea. Oils which help with nausea include peppermint, spearmint, lavender, and vanilla.
  • Acupuncture. If you decide to try acupuncture, seek out a qualified practitioner. The basic principle behind acupuncture is similar to that of acupressure.
  • Herbal teas. Many herbal teas help ease nausea, including vanilla, peppermint, spearmint, lavender, and chamomile. Some of these teas can also help you relax.

It is important that you communicate with your doctor regarding your nausea symptoms and keep him informed regarding which nonmedical treatments you are using. Doctors have several types of medication available to them. If one medication or alternate therapy isn’t working well to control your nausea, they may be able to recommend alternatives.