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CancerLynx - we prowl the net
May 1, 2000

Nausea and Vomiting:
Tips for controlling the most common side effect of Chemotherapy

Stephanie La Carrubba, RN, MS, LAc

Nausea is the single most common side effect of chemotherapy for cancer. It can be incapacitating and so severe that many people refuse to continue treatment. It is important to realize that there are many effective therapies for this problem.

As an oncology nurse for twenty years and now as an acupuncturist I see many cancer patients experiencing nausea. I would like to discuss the many ways in which the symptoms of nausea and vomiting can be controlled.

The amount of nausea a person experiences varies from patient to patient and from drug to drug. Chemotherapy agents cause these side effects by triggering the vomit center in the brain. Medications known as antiemetics can help to control the stimulating of the vomit center. Many antiemetics are given prior to treatment and continued on prescribed intervals. Sometimes an antiemetic is given for three days. Most antiemetics have the tendency to make you drowsy or feel mildly sedated. Use caution when waking from sleep. There is a greater tendency to lose your balance. Also avoid driving a car or performing and activity involving coordination and reaction time.

Chinese Medicine
The National Institutes of Health recently recommended acupuncture as an effective tool for the treatment of nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy. Acupuncture before and after chemotherapy treatments can help to decrease nausea and vomiting without the side effects of antiemetics. Also, the combination of acupuncture and andtiemetic therapy allows for greater relief without as many of the unpleasant side effects of the antiementic therapy. Many insurance companies are now covering acupuncture treatment for the relief of nausea and vomiting

Eating small meals throughout the day instead of three large meals prevents the stomach from feeling too full. Avoiding fried fatty foods as well as spicy foods will make digestion easier. Drinking clear liquids will help to settle the stomach.

Other Strategies
Breathe deeply and slowly when you first feel nauseated. Avoid odors such as smoke, perfume and cooking odors. Use music or a movie to distract yourself. The use of Sea Bands (placed between the two tendons on the inside of your forearm about two inches up from the wrist) applied 1 hour before treatment and left on 24 hours post treatment has antiementic effects.

As you can see, there are many strategies to help relieve this common side effect from chemotherapy. There are many others that have not been mentioned in this article.

Remember that if you are bothered with nausea and vomiting, discuss this with your health care professionals and devise a plan of treatment that will work for you.

Stephanie La Carrubba, RN, MS, LAc
1340 El Camino Real Menlo Park (M,W,F)
442 Peninsula Ave San Mateo (Tues & Thurs)

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