If you’re feeling sick

Some types of chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy can make you feel sick. Nausea may be caused by radiotherapy to the brain, stomach, bowel or close to the liver. Other drugs, such as painkillers and antibiotics, and physical problems like constipation or liver damage, can also cause nausea.

There are very effective treatments to help prevent and control sickness. Your cancer specialist can prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs for you. Let them know if your anti-sickness drugs are not helping, as there are several different types you can take.

If feeling sick is putting you off your food, these tips may help:

  • Try eating dry food, such as toast or crackers, first thing in the morning before you get up.
  • If the smell of cooking makes you feel sick, eat cold meals or food from the freezer that only needs heating up. However, remember to follow the cooking instructions to make sure it’s properly cooked.
  • If possible, let someone else do the cooking.
  • Avoid greasy, fatty or fried foods.
  • Try sitting by an open window so there’s plenty of fresh air in the room while you eat.
  • Sit at a table in an upright position when eating, and stay sitting for a short time after the meal.
  • When you feel sick, start by eating light foods such as thin soups or egg custards. Gradually introduce small portions of your favourite foods, slowly building up to a more varied diet.
  • Food or drink containing ginger can help reduce feelings of sickness. You could try crystallised ginger, ginger tea or ginger biscuits.
  • Sipping a fizzy drink is a popular remedy for feeling sick. Try mineral water, ginger ale, lemonade or soda water, and sip it slowly through a straw.
  • Try having drinks between meals rather than with your food.
  • You could try wearing sea bands (available from chemists) around your wrists. They use acupressure to help relieve nausea.
  • Try to make sure you have regular bowel movements as constipation can make you feel sick.