Feeling sick in the stomach (nauseated) is an unpleasant symptom that may be caused by the cancer itself. Nausea can also be a side effect of some types of chemotherapy, but anti-nausea medicines can often prevent or manage this.
Other causes of nausea can include:
- treatment with radiation therapy
- stress or anxiety
- too much or too little of a mineral in the blood (e.g. calcium)
- drugs used to control other symptoms (e.g. morphine for pain)
- the kidneys not working properly
- a bowel blockage (obstruction) or constipation
- increased pressure around the brain as a result of cancer in the brain or cancer affecting the flow of fluid around the brain and spinal cord.
Tips for easing nausea
- Eat small meals as often as you can.
- Eat cold foods, such as sandwiches, stewed fruit, salads or jelly.
- Have food or drink that contains ginger, such as ginger ale, ginger tea or ginger cake.
- Talk to your doctor or nurse about anti-nausea drugs or treatments that can help relieve constipation.
- Try to reduce stress by using meditation or relaxation techniques.
- Avoid strong odours and cooking smells.
For more on this, see Nutrition and cancer, and listen to the podcast below.
Podcast: Appetite Loss and Nausea
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof Chris Karapetis, Network Clinical Director (Cancer Services), Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, Head, Department of Medical Oncology, and Director, Clinical Research in Medical Oncology, Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, SA; Dr Amey Aurangabadkar, Radiologist, Illawarra Radiology Group, NSW; Clare Brophy, Consumer; Prof Katherine Clark, Clinical Director of Palliative Care, NSLHD Supportive and Palliative Care Network, Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW; Prof Wendy Cooper, Senior Staff Specialist, Tissue Pathology and Diagnostic Oncology, NSW Health Pathology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; Dr Chloe Georgiou, Oncology Research Fellow, Australian Rare Cancer Portal, and Oncology Trials Fellow, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Susan Harden, Radiation Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Justin Hargreaves, Medical Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Bendigo Health Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Laura Kirsten, Principal Clinical Psychologist, Nepean Cancer Care Centre, NSW; Prof Linda Mileshkin, Medical Oncologist, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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