Chemotherapy nausea and vomiting: Prevention is best defense

Not everyone has nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy. Learn if you're at risk and what you and your healthcare team can do to avoid these side effects.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Often these side effects can be prevented or controlled.

Who's at risk of chemotherapy nausea and vomiting?

Whether you'll have nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy depends on:

  • What chemotherapy medicines you receive and their dosage.
  • Whether you receive other cancer treatments during your chemotherapy treatment.
  • Whether you've had nausea and vomiting in the past.

Whether a medicine will cause nausea and vomiting also depends on how much you receive. Some medicines may be less likely to cause side effects at lower doses. Ask your healthcare team if your treatment is likely to cause nausea and vomiting.

How are medicines used to prevent chemotherapy nausea and vomiting?

Most people having chemotherapy receive anti-nausea medicines to prevent nausea and vomiting. That's because nausea and vomiting can be hard to control once they start. Nausea and vomiting can make you feel miserable, very tired and upset. These side effects also can make you feel less willing to stick to your treatment schedule.

There are many medicines to prevent nausea and vomiting. Which medicines you receive depends on your unique situation.

Anti-nausea medicines can be given before, during and after chemotherapy treatments. After treatment you may continue taking medicine on a set schedule to prevent nausea and vomiting. You also may receive medicine that you can take in case you feel nauseated.

What can I do to prevent chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting?

In addition to the medicines your healthcare team gives you, you can take steps to lower your risk of nausea and vomiting. For example:

  • Eat small meals. Have small meals throughout the day rather than eating fewer, larger meals. If possible, don't skip meals. Eating a light meal a few hours before treatment also may help.
  • Eat what appeals to you. But it's best to avoid foods that are sweet, fried or fatty. Cool foods also may smell better and make you less nauseated.

    Cook and freeze meals before treatment so you don't have to cook when you're not feeling well. Or have someone else cook for you.

  • Drink lots of fluids. Try cool beverages such as water, unsweetened fruit juices, tea or ginger ale that's lost its carbonation. It may help to drink small amounts throughout the day instead of larger drinks less often.
  • Avoid unpleasant smells. Pay attention to smells that trigger nausea for you and avoid bad smells. Fresh air may help.
  • Make yourself comfortable. Rest after eating. But don't lie flat for a couple of hours. Try wearing loose clothing and keep busy with other activities.
  • Use relaxation techniques. Try meditation and deep breathing.
  • Consider complementary therapies. Examples include acupuncture and aromatherapy. They may help you feel better when used along with your anti-nausea medicines. Tell your healthcare team if you're interested in trying these therapies. They may be able to suggest someone who works with people getting cancer treatments.

These self-care measures may help prevent nausea and vomiting. But they can't take the place of anti-nausea medicines.

If you begin feeling nauseated despite anti-nausea medicines, call your healthcare team. They may prescribe additional medicines. Your treatment will depend on what's causing your symptoms.

April 05, 2024 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Acute lymphocytic leukemia
  2. Acute myelogenous leukemia
  3. Adjuvant therapy for cancer
  4. Anal cancer
  5. Atypical cells: Are they cancer?
  6. Beating Ovarian Cancer
  7. Biliary tract cancer: Should I get a second opinion?
  8. Biopsy procedures
  9. Bladder cancer
  10. What is bladder cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  11. Bladder cancer FAQs
  12. Bladder cancer treatment options
  13. Blood Cancers and Disorders
  14. Bone cancer
  15. Bone metastasis
  16. Brain tumor
  17. What is a brain tumor? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  18. Brain tumor FAQs
  19. Breast cancer
  20. Breast Cancer
  21. Breast cancer chemoprevention
  22. Breast Cancer Education Tool
  23. Common questions about breast cancer treatment
  24. Infographic: Breast Cancer Risk
  25. Breast cancer staging
  26. Breast cancer types
  27. Dr. Wallace Video
  28. Dr. Mark Truty (surgery, MN) better outcomes with chemo
  29. CA 125 test: A screening test for ovarian cancer?
  30. Cancer
  31. Cancer
  32. Cancer blood tests
  33. Myths about cancer causes
  34. Infographic: Cancer Clinical Trials Offer Many Benefits
  35. Cancer diagnosis: 11 tips for coping
  36. Cancer-related fatigue
  37. Cancer pain: Relief is possible
  38. Cancer risk: What the numbers mean
  39. Cancer surgery
  40. Cancer survival rate
  41. Cancer survivors: Care for your body after treatment
  42. Cancer survivors: Late effects of cancer treatment
  43. Cancer survivors: Managing your emotions after cancer treatment
  44. Cancer treatment myths
  45. Carcinoid syndrome
  46. Castleman disease
  47. Cervical cancer
  48. What is cervical cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  49. Cervical cancer FAQs
  50. Cervical dysplasia: Is it cancer?
  51. Chemo targets
  52. Chemotherapy
  53. Chemotherapy and hair loss: What to expect during treatment
  54. Chemotherapy and sex: Is sexual activity OK during treatment?
  55. Chemotherapy side effects: A cause of heart disease?
  56. Cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
  57. Choroid plexus carcinoma
  58. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia
  59. Chronic myelogenous leukemia
  60. Collecting Pennies Through the Pain
  61. Colon cancer
  62. Colon Cancer Family Registry
  63. Colon cancer screening: At what age can you stop?
  64. Colon cancer screening
  65. Colorectal Cancer
  66. Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?
  67. Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma
  68. Cancer-related diarrhea
  69. Dragon Boats and Breast Cancer
  70. Eating during cancer treatment: Tips to make food tastier
  71. Embryonal tumors
  72. Endometrial cancer
  73. Ependymoma
  74. Esophageal cancer
  75. Esophageal Cancer
  76. Ewing sarcoma
  77. Fertility preservation
  78. Floor of the mouth cancer
  79. Frequent sex: Does it protect against prostate cancer?
  80. Gallbladder cancer
  81. Gallbladder polyps: Can they be cancerous?
  82. Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer
  83. Genetic testing for breast cancer: Psychological and social impact
  84. GI Stents
  85. Glioblastoma
  86. Glowing Cancer Surgery
  87. Gynecologic Cancers
  88. Hairy cell leukemia
  89. Head and Neck Cancer
  90. Head and Neck Cancer Transoral Surgery
  91. Head and neck cancers
  92. Heart cancer: Is there such a thing?
  93. HER2-positive breast cancer: What is it?
  94. High-dose vitamin C: Can it kill cancer cells?
  95. Hodgkin's lymphoma (Hodgkin's disease)
  96. Hodgkin's vs. non-Hodgkin's lymphoma: What's the difference?
  97. Inflammatory breast cancer
  98. Invasive lobular carcinoma
  99. Is a clinical trial for biliary tract cancer right for me?
  100. Leukemia
  101. Liver cancer
  102. What is liver cancer? An expert explains
  103. Liver cancer FAQs
  104. Living with biliary tract cancer
  105. Living with Brain Tumors
  106. Long Term Brain Cancer Survivor
  107. Low blood counts
  108. Lung cancer
  109. Infographic: Lung Cancer
  110. Lung Cancer
  111. Lung nodules: Can they be cancerous?
  112. Magic mouthwash
  113. Male breast cancer
  114. What is breast cancer? An expert explains
  115. Measles Virus as a Cancer Fighter
  116. Melanoma
  117. Melanoma pictures to help identify skin cancer
  118. Merkel cell carcinoma
  119. Mesothelioma
  120. Monoclonal antibody drugs
  121. Mort Crim and Cancer
  122. Mouth cancer
  123. What is mouth cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  124. Mouth cancer FAQs
  125. Mouth sores caused by cancer treatment: How to cope
  126. Multiple myeloma
  127. Infographic: Multiple Myeloma
  128. Myelofibrosis
  129. Myelofibrosis
  130. Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  131. Neuroblastoma
  132. Neuroendocrine tumors
  133. Neuroendocrine Tumors NETs
  134. Neurofibromatosis
  135. New immunotherapy approved for metastatic bladder cancer
  136. No appetite? How to get nutrition during cancer treatment
  137. Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  138. Oligodendroglioma
  139. Osteosarcoma
  140. Living with an ostomy
  141. Ovarian cancer
  142. Ovarian cancer: Still possible after hysterectomy?
  143. Paget's disease of the breast
  144. Palliative care for biliary tract cancer
  145. Pancreatic cancer
  146. Pancreatic Cancer
  147. What is pancreatic cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  148. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancer: Minimally Invasive Surgery
  149. Pancreatic Cancer Survivor
  150. Infographic: Pancreatic Cancers-Whipple
  151. Pap test: Can it detect ovarian cancer?
  152. Paulas story A team approach to battling breast cancer
  153. Peripheral nerve tumors
  154. Pheochromocytoma
  155. Pineoblastoma
  156. Pink Sisters
  157. Precision medicine: A new way to treat biliary cancers
  158. Prostate cancer
  159. Prostate Cancer
  160. Prostate cancer: Does PSA level affect prognosis?
  161. What is prostate cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  162. Prostate cancer metastasis: Where does prostate cancer spread?
  163. Prostate cancer prevention
  164. Prostate cancer FAQs
  165. Proton Beam Therapy
  166. Punk Guitarist Survives Brain Tumor
  167. Rectal cancer
  168. Recurrent breast cancer
  169. Retinoblastoma
  170. Robotic bladder surgery
  171. Salivary gland tumors
  172. Scientists propose a breast cancer drug for some bladder cancer patients
  173. Scrotal masses
  174. Self-Image During Cancer
  175. Skin cancer
  176. Infographic: Skin Cancer
  177. Skin Cancer Reconstruction
  178. Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
  179. Soft tissue sarcoma
  180. Spinal cord tumor
  181. Spinal tumor
  182. Stage 4 prostate cancer
  183. Stomach cancer
  184. What is stomach cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  185. Stomach cancer FAQs
  186. Super Survivor Conquers Cancer
  187. Testicular cancer
  188. Testicular microlithiasis
  189. The Long Race Beating Cancer
  190. Throat cancer
  191. Thyroid cancer
  192. Thyroid Cancer
  193. What is thyroid cancer? A Mayo Clinic expert explains
  194. Thyroid cancer FAQs
  195. Treatment options for biliary tract cancer
  196. Tumor vs. cyst: What's the difference?
  197. Vaginal cancer
  198. Vertebral tumor
  199. Melanoma — Early stage and advanced melanoma
  200. How cancer spreads
  201. PICC line placement
  202. Skin cancer — How skin cancer develops
  203. Vulvar cancer
  204. Weight Loss After Breast Cancer
  205. What is biliary tract cancer?
  206. When cancer returns: How to cope with cancer recurrence
  207. Wilms tumor
  208. Zollinger-Ellison syndrome