- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Managing radiation therapy side effects
- Appetite loss and nausea
Appetite loss and nausea
Good nutrition is important during and after cancer treatment. It can help to manage the side effects of treatment and speed up recovery. However, some people may lose interest in food or find it difficult to eat well during radiation therapy. This can depend on the part of the body being treated. It is important to try to keep eating well so you get the nourishment you need to maintain your weight (see some ways to manage appetite changes).
If the radiation therapy is directed near your abdomen, pelvic region or head, you may feel sick (nauseated) with or without vomiting for several hours after each treatment. Your radiation oncologist may prescribe medicine to take at home before and after each session to prevent nausea. If you are finding nausea difficult to manage, talk to the radiation oncologist or nurse, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
If you have radiation therapy to the head and neck area, chewing or swallowing may be difficult or painful. Your sense of taste may also change if radiation therapy has affected the salivary glands or tastebuds. In some cases, taste changes may be permanent.
If you are finding it difficult to eat well and get the nutrition you need, a dietitian can suggest changes to your diet, liquid supplements or a feeding tube. This will help improve your strength, lessen side effects, and lead to better treatment outcomes.
At first, I couldn’t think about eating without thinking about throwing up. Drinking ginger beer helped control the nausea.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Dr Madhavi Chilkuri, Radiation Oncologist, Townsville Cancer Centre, The Townsville Hospital, and Dean, RANZCR Faculty of Radiation Oncology, QLD; Polly Baldwin, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Patricia Hanley, Consumer; Prof Michael Hofman, Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Leanne Hoy, Cancer Nurse Consultant, GenesisCare, VIC; Sharon King, Accredited Practising Dietitian, TAS; Dr Yoo Young (Dominique) Lee, Radiation Oncology Consultant, Princess Alexandra Hospital, QLD; Dr Wendy Phillips, Senior Medical Physicist, Department of Radiation Oncology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Katrina Rech, Radiation Therapist and Quality Systems Manager, GenesisCare, SA. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.