Understanding and Managing Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting

Two of the most uncomfortable and disruptive side effects of chemotherapy can be nausea and vomiting. This is called CINV, or chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Up to 90% of people treated with chemotherapy can experience these issues, if they are not treated with medicine to prevent these effects.  These side effects can be incredibly draining and can make it difficult to maintain daily responsibilities such as work and family. As 95% of patients have stated that CINV directly impacted their quality of life, this is one of the most significant factors in choosing or continuing chemotherapy treatment. Patients often cite CINV as a major factor in choosing to stop chemotherapy treatment.

CINV can affect patients in two different stages. The first stage is more immediate, as it can happen within minutes following the chemotherapy, and may continue for up to 24 hours after the chemotherapy is administered. The second stage can develop over 24 hours after the chemotherapy treatment and can persist for a few days. Those who are more susceptible to experiencing CINV at either stage are women and people under the age of 50 years old. Other factors include the following groups of people who may have these issues: those who tend to have motion sickness; those with a history of anxiety; those who have been treated with chemotherapy previously; women who had morning sickness during pregnancy; and those who have never drank alcohol or have consumed very little alcohol in general.

How can it be managed?

Before even starting treatment, patients should have an open discussion with his or her doctor and subsequent team in order to learn about the treatment itself, possible associated symptoms of nausea and vomiting, as well as way in which to treat these symptoms. By doing this, the patient can not only expect what may happen, but will also be educated and armed with possible means in which to deal with and alleviate these symptoms.

Sometimes it may also be beneficial to link up with a support group with others who have experienced or are experiencing these symptoms. The social support can be helpful during a difficult time. Other ways in which a patient can manage the CINV proactively can include eating smaller meals, drinking a lot of fluids, and eating food at room temperature. Other ways include taking medication exactly as prescribed, and avoiding any food that may exacerbate your symptoms. By following these proactive methods, patients can try to manage their CINV so that they can return to their daily lives.

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