If you are feeling sick

Some cancer treatments can make you feel sick (nausea). These include some chemotherapy, hormonal therapy and targeted therapy drugs, and radiotherapy to the brain, stomach, bowel or close to the liver. Some 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 or GP can prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs for you. Tell them if your anti-sickness drugs are not helping, as there are 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. Remember to follow the cooking instructions to make sure it is properly cooked.
  • If possible, let someone else do the cooking.
  • Avoid greasy, fatty or fried foods.
  • Try sitting by an open window while you eat, so there is plenty of fresh air in the room.
  • Sit in an upright position at a table 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. Gradually introduce small portions of foods you feel like eating. You can slowly build up to a more varied diet.
  • Food or drinks containing ginger can help reduce feelings of sickness. You could try crystallised ginger, ginger tea or ginger biscuits.
  • Some people find peppermint tea reduces nausea. You could add a teaspoon of honey if you prefer a sweeter taste.
  • Sipping a fizzy drink is a popular remedy to stop feeling sick. Try fizzy 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 a poo regularly, as constipation can make you feel sick.

We have more detailed information about coping with nausea and vomiting.