Nausea refers to the uncomfortable feeling of wanting to vomit, while vomiting is the act of throwing up stomach contents through the mouth. One of the most common side effects of cancer and certain anticancer treatments is nausea and vomiting, but not all patients with the same condition and/or treatments will experience it the same way. The severity of nausea and vomiting ranges from mild to severe in different people. It can occur before, during or after treatment, but there are also some people who do not experience it at all.
Causes of Nausea and Vomiting
An area in our brain called the “vomiting centre” controls vomiting. Various factors can cause nausea and vomiting by triggering the vomiting centre. These include:
What you need to look out for
Uncontrolled nausea and vomiting can lead to more serious issues like dehydration and other problems from the loss of body salts. It is important to look out for the following symptoms and if present, to see your doctor or nurse early to be assessed.
How it can be treated
Your doctor will ask you further questions (e.g. when it started, associated symptoms) and conduct a physical examination, to determine the cause of your nausea or vomiting. Your doctor may also order for further investigations (e.g. blood tests, scans) if needed. As the treatment for nausea or vomiting depends on its cause, your healthcare team will be able to advise you in detail on the management plan that is most suited to your condition.
Some common treatment approaches include:
What you can do
The following are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you to manage your nausea and vomiting better:
To prevent nausea / vomiting:
If your nausea / vomiting is worsened by smells from food or other sources:
If you feel nauseated:
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse if you experience any nausea and / or vomiting, or if you experience any of the following that can indicate
worsening or complications of your condition:
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at
+65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers.
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