What helps with nausea from cancer treatment
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Nausea is my worse fear. I hate being sick to the point that it makes me have panic attacks. When I was younger, I would faint when I was sick turns out I was pressing on a gland in my neck which caused me to blackout this used to scare me and caused me anxiety. I developed Emetophobia, a fear of being sick.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer my first thoughts after getting the news literally seconds later “I said I can’t have chemo I can’t be sick it makes me faint” sounds stupid now thinking back, how I must have sounded crazy my breast cancer consultant but it was a genuine fear
He told me not to worry they have mediation to help with nausea during chemotherapy and it calmed me down a little but I was still very anxious about being sick.
Turned out my first chemo went really well there was no nausea. I thought this is easy I can do this how wrong was I.
On my second chemo I was sick within hours and it is not a sickness I have experienced many times in my life. It was quite violent I felt like an alien was trying to get out. I dont want to scare people about to start chemo but I want to be honest its not nice but being sick isnt nice is it?
Remember everyone is different and once I got my nausea under control it was much easier.
I wasnt sick like this again. I was prescribed a stronger sickness drug called emend which I took one of just before chemo infusion and it helped. However I still felt sick.
It is not just chemotherapy that can cause nausea but a lot of other drugs relating to cancer treatment including targeted cancer drugs, immunotherapy, hormone therapies, bisphosphonates, and painkillers.
Now I have stage 4 cancer I am on all these apart from immunotherapy.
Prescribed medication to help with nausea when on chemo
I was sick 3 times, but it felt like a thousand but then I just felt sick. I was so distraught I said I am not having any more treatment on the next round of chemo they gave me extra drugs.
I had emend which I took before chemo along with steroids for three days and cyclizine which I could take as and when I started to feel sick. I took this when they were due as I didnt wait to start feeling sick because if I missed a dose it would creep back up.
It didnt get rid of my nausea completely some days were worse, but it was now under control.
I spent a few days with each chemo cycle in bed worried if I moved I would vomit but I didnt vomit again.
After chemo for primary breast cancer I still suffered with nausea related to other cancer drugs I was on so I stayed on the cyclizine. I did not take it every day but knowing I had something when I stared to feel nausea helped.
When I got diagnosed with secondary breast cancer and was going to go on chemo again I wanted a strong drug this time I was given ondansetron and my new oncologist said it interacts with cyclizine so he put me onto metroclopramide. I have had conflicting information about this from different oncologists at the same hospital, but I was to trust my consultant.
With secondary breast cancer I am on permanent treatment whether it be targeted therapy or chemo. All was well for 18 months until my new treatment stopped working and I had to go onto Kadcyla and then the nausea increased again.
This treatment does not agree with me it makes me vomit so I am back onto ondansetron and metoclopramide, top strength and dose amount buts it’s not working so I am going to have to speak to my team to find something that does.
I have recently been advised to stop the ondosatron as it was causing severe constipation and as I write this I am on a new chemotherapy that isnt supposed to cause nausea.
I keep being told that no one having treatment has to suffer with nausea as there are some wonderful drugs but for three months my oncologist is not helping so I am seeking alternative prescribed medication for nausea.
This is not the same for all cancer treatments and also nausea reliefs will work for different people sometimes they work for me for a while and then it’s like my body gets immune but here are what I have found from my research and which things I have tried.
The things that relieve nausea, they might not necessarily “cure nausea” but once you find something that helps it should make it more bearable.
The most common prescribed nausea medication in the UK are
- 5HT3 receptor antagonists (ondansetron, granisetron or palonosetron)
- NK1 receptor antagonists (aprepitant, fosaprepitant or rolapitant)
- NEPA (netupitant and palonosetron combined)
- corticosteroids (dexamethasone or methylprednisolone)
- dopamine receptor antagonists (metoclopramide)
Medication can be in tablet, liquid, injections, patches, and a pump for very severe nausea. I can become very anxious when I feel sick so I may as take lorazepam which can not only help with anxiety, but it is used for nausea
Speak to your team
Also do speak to your medical team its no good suffering in silence as if they can help then get the help.
Over the counter nausea medications
Travel sickness tablets can help with nausea but if you are having cancer treatment, I would suggest getting something on prescription as it might be a long term side effect and over the counter and more for one off nausea.
Food and drink for nausea
It is best to avoid alcohol as it might interact with the treatment as well as the nausea medication you are taking and make them less effective or make you even more drowsy.
If you can manage to eat try small light meals, you might have to experiment to find out works best for you.
I was told white bland foods help nausea, sounds horrid, but it helped so potatoes, scrambled eggs, broths, rice, and pasta. I avoid spice and greasy foods.
I like cream crackers and for breakfast I would have plain yogurt with honey and raisins or dried cranberries and that was the only thing I could manage on a bad day. Not all days are like this thankfully.
I find my nausea is bad at times that I would be having my evening meal so most of the time I would prepare a meal and not want it. This used to upset me at first, but I got used to it and would prepare smaller portions.
I started cooking less and preferred sandwiches. It is whatever is best for you it is best to get some food in you rather than none. If you are having problems eating speak to your medical team they can help.
I saw a dietician at Penny Brohn Cancer Centre and at a Macmillan workshop.
There are also shakes you can have to get in nutrients your body might be missing. Dont go down the route of supplements without speaking to your team as some may interact with your treatment.
I would get cravings from the steroids I was on, we call them “the steroids munch” it is a lot like the cravings you get when your pregnant so it is supposed to be your body lacking a mineral.
My favourite snack was salt and vinegar crisps and pickled onion anything vinegary so not sure what my body was lacking.
Eat little and often dont worry too much if you not eating at the correct mealtimes just eat when you can.
Ginger is excellent for nausea, put it in cooking if you can tolerate the heat or try crystallised ginger. I liked ginger biscuits with black tea as I felt black tea settled my tummy as does fizzy drinks, so I have lemonade to sip on when feeling sick.
Ginger beer is good, have you tried crabbies alcoholic ginger beer well if you do fancy a tipple and you can have alcohol try one of those that would be my drink in the beer garden.
I know a girl that just has a spoonful of ginger. You can get ginger tablets. It needs to contain actual ginger and not just the flavouring.
Chewing gum creates saliva which can help neutralise acids in your stomach and relieve motion sickness. I actually find that this does work. If I start to feel queasy, I always have some minty chewing gum, it also freshens up my mouth or I go and brush my teeth.
Alternative ways to help with nausea
Pressure point wrist band – I use these when I am travelling and find they help with motion sickness and I have also used them at home when I am feeling nauseous from chemotherapy and they do help.
Anything to take your mind off feeing sick try meditation when you are feeling nausea and deep breathing.
I have written about how to cope with sea sickness before as I have always got travel sick. I think Im just a sicky person but if you are feeling sick on chemotherapy try these tips but do speak to your medical team. Let me know if you have found something thats helps with nausea.
Health Disclaimer : I am not a medical professional this post is based on my personal experience and is written as a guide. Always seeks professional advice from your medical team.
Read More articles about living with breast cancer
- Realities of living with Secondary Breast Cancer
- How to deal with Pain Management during cancer diagnosis
- How to manage Nausea
- How to cope with Constipation
- Tips and Tricks for Chemo