What is Chemotherapy?
Chemotherapy, or chemo, is a treatment which uses drugs, either alone or in combination, to treat cancer. There are various kinds of chemo drugs. Separate drugs work for different people. While some of them can make the patient sick, others might not. A patient should always let their health care provider know if they are feeling very queasy, or have been throwing up for more than a day. Here’s an article to help make dealing with chemo nausea, easier.
What are the Different Types of Chemo-Related Nausea & Vomiting?
Acute Nausea and Vomiting Caused by Chemotherapy: This usually occurs after a few minutes to hours post chemotherapy, worsen in the first 5 to 6 hours, and goes away within the first 24 hours.
Delayed Nausea & Vomiting Due to Chemotherapy: This type of chemo nausea begins after more than 24 hours post chemo and lasts for up to 5 to 7 days after treatment. This type of chemo nausea is more likely to occur with certain types of chemo.
Anticipatory Nausea & Vomiting Post Chemo: This is basically a learned or conditioned response which can be a possible result of previous experiences with chemo, which have caused nausea and vomiting. In this condition the brain pairs the smells, sounds, and sights, sounds of the treatment area with vomiting. Anticipatory chemo nausea and vomiting begins when the person prepares for the next treatment, even before the chemo is actually given. The brain expects nausea and vomiting to happen like it did before. About 1 in 3 people get anticipatory nausea, but only 1 in 10 vomits before the chemo.
Breakthrough Chemo Nausea & Vomiting: When nausea and vomiting occurs even though treatment has been administered to prevent it, the condition is termed as breakthrough nausea and vomiting. When this problem happens, more or different medicines need to be taken to prevent further nausea and vomiting.
Refractory Vomiting Caused by Chemotherapy: This type of chemo nausea occurs when the drugs and medicines given to prevent or control nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy are not working. The nausea and vomiting become refractory. Refractory vomiting can happen after a few or even many chemo treatments.
7 Ways to Deal with Chemo Nausea
- Eat Small Meals to Deal with Chemo Nausea: Chemo nausea often worsens if the stomach is empty. So, people experiencing chemo nausea should eat small meals, and eat more often, instead of having three large meals a day. Chemo patients should try to eat more food at a time of day when they feel less ill.
- Chew Food Properly & Slowly: Chemo patients can deal with chemo nausea by chewing their food completely, eating slowly and having foods which are cold, or at room temperature, as even the smell of hot or warm foods can make them feel sicker.
- Avoid Spicy & Fatty Foods: Spicy and fatty foods, beans, soda and certain vegetables like cabbage, should be avoided because they are hard to digest and cause gas and nausea.
- Rest A Bit After Meals: Chemo patients should rest after eating, but not lie down. They should sit up while keeping their head higher than their feet.
- High-Protein Snacks to Deal with Chemo Nausea: In order to deal with chemo nausea, people who feel queasy just after waking up should keep a box of crackers on their nightstand and eat a few before leaving their bed. They can also try having a high-protein snack like cheese or lean meat before going to bed, since protein stays in the stomach longer than other foods and also helps in dealing with chemo nausea.
- Deal with Chemo Nausea by Sucking Ice Cubes & Popsicles: To prevent dehydration, these people can choose to drink cold beverages like water, flavored drink mixes, or flat soda. They can deal with the nausea by sucking on popsicles and ice chips to stay hydrated.
- Avoid Drinking Fluids With Meals: Rather than ingesting beverages and fluids with meals it is always better to have them in between meals. They should remember to take their anti-nausea medicine on time to prevent chemo nausea.
How Can Chemo Nausea Affect The Patient’s Health?
The body can lose a lot of nutrients and water due to repeated vomiting from chemotherapy. If one vomits more than 3 times a day, and they don’t drink enough fluids, they can become dehydrated. Also, the cancer drugs cannot work if they are thrown up. If vomiting from chemo persists, then the patient may have to temporarily stop their cancer treatment. Fluids may need to be administered to chemo patients through IV in order to reset the chemical balance in their body and help them regain the nutrients for energy.
When Should a Chemo Patient Contact Their Doctor?
The patient should contact the doctor immediately when vomiting is severe or comes back often, and symptoms like dark and insufficient urine, rapid heart rate, dizziness, headache, coated tongue, flushed dry skin, irritability and confusion are experienced. The chemo patient should inform the doctor if feeling queasy before the chemotherapy session.
Thanks to the latest cancer drugs and medicines which treat the side effects or prevent them, chemo nausea and vomiting hardly occur these days and can dealt with easily. And even if chemo related nausea and vomiting occurs, they tend to be less severe in intensity and also pass more quickly than before.
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