Nausea – feeling sick
Cancer, or cancer treatment, can sometimes cause nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting (being sick). This can be unpleasant and distressing.
Nausea may be caused by various things including:
- some painkillers
- a high level of calcium in the blood (hypercalcaemia)
- irritation of the stomach lining
- blockage of the bowel.
Your doctors will want to find out why you are feeling sick as this helps them to choose the treatment that is most likely to help. Whenever possible, the cause, such as pain or a high calcium level, should be treated.
You may be prescribed an anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drug. These are usually given as tablets, but if you can’t keep tablets down there are other ways to take them. Some anti-sickness drugs can be dissolved under the tongue, others can be given by injection or they can be given as a suppository (into the back passage).
Anti-sickness drugs often work better when taken regularly so that the sickness doesn’t have a chance to come back. Sometimes, it may not be possible to completely control the sickness caused by chemotherapy, but much can be done to reduce it.
Complementary therapies such as relaxation, homeopathy, visualisation and acupuncture can be used to help reduce nausea and vomiting.
Helpful tips for reducing nausea
- If possible have someone else prepare your food.
- Try to eat when you feel less sick.
- Fatty foods, foods with a strong smell, or fried foods make your nausea worse.
- Eat cold or warm food if the smell of hot food makes you feel sick.
- Eat small snacks during the day and chew the food well.
- Have small, regular meals if possible.
- Take plenty of liquids. Drink slowly, taking small sips.
- Try not to drink too much fluid before you eat.
- Sea-bands (acupressure wristbands) can help to reduce nausea – these are available from many chemist shops.
- Ginger can be helpful – try eating ginger biscuits or drinking ginger beer.