Not so long ago, crippling nausea and vomiting were routine for people
undergoing chemotherapy. But thanks to new drugs and other treatments, that
isn't the case anymore.
"We've made great progress," says Karen Syrjala, PhD, director of
biobehavioral sciences at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in
Seattle. "We have much less nausea and vomiting now -- even though we're
using much higher doses of chemotherapy than we did before." Because we can
control the side effects, Syrjala says cancer treatment itself is much more
Patients and caregivers may present with different needs, making it difficult to decide whose needs take priority. This situation is especially common when it comes to truth-telling, with family members asking the health care team to keep bad news a secret from the cancer patient, or vice versa.
Communication With Caregivers
Cultural differences can profoundly affect communication with the patient and family. For example, some Asian Americans believe that talking about death or dying is...
Antinausea medications -- or antiemetics -- are so effective, that experts
have shifted their focus from treating nausea to its aggressive prevention.
"My standard goal is to stop nausea before it happens," says Christy
Russell, MD, chair of the American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Advisory
Committee, "rather than waiting for it to start and then treating
Of course, not all cases of nausea and vomiting can be prevented -- 70-80%
of people on chemotherapy still face some risk. But thanks to better treatment,
most people in chemotherapy are able to go about their normal lives, working
and caring for their families.
"You may not feel great all the time," says Carmen Escalante, MD,
chair of the department of general internal medicine at the University of Texas
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "But you can keep going. And that's a big
improvement on what chemotherapy used to be like."