Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Nausea/Vomiting and Chemotherapy

Cancer Treatment: Nausea/Vomiting and Chemotherapy

The side effects of chemotherapy depend on the type of chemotherapy and the amount given. Anticipating and managing side effects can help to minimize them and provide the best possible experience for the person receiving chemotherapy.

What are the types of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy?

As each person's individual medical profile and diagnosis is different, so is his or her reaction to treatment. Side effects may be severe, mild, or absent. Be sure to discuss with your cancer care team possible side effects of treatment before the treatment begins.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), based on the time when the side effects occur, the following are four types of nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy to treat cancer:

What causes nausea and vomiting?

The brain controls nausea and vomiting. Nausea is controlled by autonomic nerves, which control involuntary bodily functions such as heartbeat and breathing. Various irritants, such as smells, taste, anxiety, pain, motion, or digestive chemicals, can trigger a vomiting center in the brain to initiate vomiting as a reflex. Many factors influence whether a person will experience nausea and vomiting. Some chemotherapy drugs are more likely to cause reactions than others. Females and people under the age of 50 are more likely to experience nausea and vomiting. People who are prone to motion sickness or anxiety are more likely to react to chemotherapy with nausea and vomiting.

Managing nausea and vomiting

Sometimes, a combination of antinausea drugs and alternative therapies will help to minimize nausea and vomiting. It is very important to maintain the proper electrolyte balance and ensure that vomiting does not deplete the body of important nutrients. Uncontrolled nausea and vomiting are serious problems that must be managed in order to prevent malnutrition, dehydration, and mental changes. All of these problems negatively impact the patient's quality of life and ability to perform daily activities. Report vomiting that lasts more than a day to your doctor.

The NCI provides the following tips for dealing with nausea and vomiting:

Eating and drinking:

Eating before treatment:

Other tips:

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Cancer Center


Top of Page return to top of page