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Nausea and Vomiting (Patient)


General Information

Nausea and vomiting are serious side effects of cancer therapy.

Nausea is an unpleasant wavelike feeling in the back of the throat and/or stomach that may lead to vomiting. Vomiting is throwing up the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Retching is the movement of the stomach and esophagus without vomiting and is also called dry heaves. Although treatments have improved, nausea and vomiting are still serious side effects of cancer therapy. Some patients are bothered more by nausea than by vomiting.

Nausea and vomiting must be controlled to maintain the patient's treatment and quality of life.

It is very important to prevent and control nausea and vomiting in patients with cancer, so that they can continue treatment and perform activities of daily life. Uncontrolled nausea and vomiting can cause the following:

  • Chemical changes in the body.
  • Mental changes.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Dehydration.
  • A torn esophagus.
  • Broken bones.
  • Reopening of surgical wounds.

There are four types of nausea and vomiting that are caused by cancer therapy:

  • Anticipatory.
  • Acute.
  • Delayed.
  • Chronic.

Anticipatory nausea and vomiting: If a patient has had nausea and vomiting after the previous three or four chemotherapy treatments, he or she may have anticipatory nausea and vomiting. The smells, sights, and sounds of the treatment room may remind the patient of previous times and may trigger nausea and vomiting before a new cycle of chemotherapy has even begun.

Acute nausea and vomiting: Usually happen within 24 hours after beginning chemotherapy

Delayed nausea and vomiting: Happen more than 24 hours after chemotherapy. Also called late nausea and vomiting.

Chronic nausea and vomiting: In patients with advanced cancer, chronic nausea and vomiting may be caused by the following:

  • Brain tumors or pressure on the brain.
  • Colon tumors.
  • Stomach ulcers.
  • Dehydration.
  • High or low levels of certain substances in the blood.
  • Medicines such as opioids or antidepressants.
  • Radiation therapy.
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eMedicineHealth Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER

This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

Some material in CancerNet™ is from copyrighted publications of the respective copyright claimants. Users of CancerNet™ are referred to the publication data appearing in the bibliographic citations, as well as to the copyright notices appearing in the original publication, all of which are hereby incorporated by reference.



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