Skip to Content Top

Treatment-Induced Nausea And Vomiting: Facts And Solutions


It is common knowledge that cancer treatments ­ chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery - have specific side effects that lower a patient's quality of life. All three major cancer treatments have a common side effect, nausea and vomiting. Cancer patients, when surveyed, placed nausea and vomiting among a list of the most disturbing effects of cancer therapy. As one might expect, there are three types of nausea and vomiting corresponding to the three major forms of cancer treatment.

The first type is called Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting (CINV), which stems from the potent, toxic drugs pumped into your body to kill cancerous and non-cancerous cells. CINV comes in three forms, acute, delayed, and anticipatory CINV. Roughly 70-80% of chemotherapy patients experience CINV, and around 50% of chemotherapy patients have to refuse chemotherapy due to the severe nausea and vomiting patients experience.

The second type is called Radiation-Induced Nausea and Vomiting (RINV), which is most likely the result of adverse cellular reactions to the powerful gamma rays and X-rays directed at tumors.

The third type, a least common type of nausea, is called Post-Operative Nausea and Vomiting (PONV), which is a result of complex invasive procedures that usually accompany cancer-related surgeries. Thankfully, all three conditions­CINV, RINV, and PONV­can be treated.

The most effective, promising form of treatment for cancer-related nausea and vomiting is antiemetics, drugs specifically designed to stop nausea and vomiting. There are several different types of antiemetics that cater to a patient's current form of cancer treatment. After informing your doctor of your symptoms, they will try to find the best combination of antiemetic and cancer drug/treatment to maximize results and reduce side effects. Antiemetics can be taken orally, intravenously, or via injection. In many cases, a combination of different antiemetics produces excellent results for suffering patients.

There are several classes of antiemetics including antihistamines, benzamides, benzodiazepines, butyrophenones, cannabinoids, corticosteroids, neurokinin-1-receptor antagonists, phenothiazines, and serotonin antagonists. Some common antiemetics include Emend, Anzemet, Kytril, Zofran, Aloxi, Compazine, Anergan, Phenergan, Ativan, Reglan, Decadron, Pepcid, and Zantac. To learn more about the different classes and brand names of antiemetics visit Another common antiemetic is Marinol, a cannabinoid used to relieve nausea as well as increase the appetites of patients who have experienced a major appetite loss from treatment and side effects. To learn more about Marinol, visit theirĀ

The type of antiemetic you should take will depend upon the stage of cancer treatment, degree of treatment (high, medium, or low), and how your body reacts to certain medications. Ask your doctor about which antiemetics will work the best for your specific case.

There are several ways to stunt nausea and vomiting from cancer therapy other than antiemetics. Drinking fluids is already recommended for most chemotherapy patients. Extra hydration will help minimize stomach pain; however, fluids should be avoided during meals to prevent vomiting. Some eating hints for a patient experiencing nausea and vomiting include eating small amounts, eating before you get hungry, eating dry foods in the morning, avoiding fatty, greasy meals, and avoid eating your favorite foods so that those foods will still be your favorite once the nausea subsides. Other than nutrition, controlling your surroundings can also help your stomach pains. Some tips include avoiding strong odors, trying to rest by sitting up or reclining, never laying down flat for at least 2 hours after meals, avoiding exercise after meals, and wearing looser clothing.