Palliative Care – Managing nausea and vomiting

Palliative Care – Managing nausea and vomiting

Managing nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are experienced between 30-70% of people diagnosed with cancer. It appears that these symptoms become more frequent as the disease progresses.

There are different reasons to why nausea and vomiting can occur, and it is important that your doctor identify the cause in order to prescribe the correct treatment for you.

The one that most people know about is nausea and vomiting which is caused be chemotherapy and radiation. Medication can also cause nausea and vomiting and, unfortunately, this can be a side effect from pain medication. When starting new medication that is known to cause these symptoms, it is better to take your medication three times a day, or as prescribed, rather than as needed. Many people fear using morphine because of this side effect, but if managed properly it should go away after the first week.

Nausea and vomiting can be triggered by smell, taste, sight, pain and our emotional state. These experiences will trigger certain areas in our brain which then activate that part of our brain which results in the physical action of feeling nauseous and vomiting. Different medications may be prescribed for this type of nausea and vomiting compared to what would be prescribed for chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting.

Inner ear problems can cause nausea and vomiting accompanied by a feeling of dizziness or vertigo or feeling drunk. This will need its own type of medication.

As the disease progresses, the cancer can spread and cause bowel obstruction or increased pressure in your brain. This can cause a different type of nausea and vomiting. If you find you develop new symptoms, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Changes in your metabolism due to the cancer can cause nausea and vomiting too. This will require blood tests and medication to correct the metabolic imbalance.

Besides taking medication for your symptoms, there are some other tips and strategies to feeling better. Eat smaller meals, more frequently. Avoid very spicy or oily or rich foods. Make sure there are no bad or intense smells where you eat that could trigger your nausea. How you feel emotionally can also have an effect, so eat in a calm environment. Even if you don’t feel like eating, just being with your family at mealtimes is important. For some people, ginger and peppermint can help reduce their symptoms.