Doctors have used chemotherapy (chemo) to treat cancer since the 1950s. The advantage to these drugs is they kill cancer cells throughout your body. One downside is the side effects they can cause -- including upset stomach.
In the past, people who got chemo had to live with the intense nausea and vomiting. That's no longer true. Today, doctors have many drugs to stop -- and even prevent -- them.
Nearly 14 million people in the United States have survived cancer, a number that has quadrupled in the past several decades and is expected to reach 18 million by 2022, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). What's more, 15% of today's cancer survivors were first diagnosed 20 years ago or more, the National Cancer Institute says.
Fear of recurrence is perhaps the most common new reality for cancer survivors. "That's always in the back of their minds," says oncologist Carolyn D. Runowicz,...
Your body sees the medicine as foreign. It sets off warning signals in your brain and digestive system. This flips the on switch in a part of your brain called the vomiting center. It puts out chemicals that make you queasy. Chemo can harm your digestive tract, too, which could also lead to nausea.
Chemo can cause three different types of nausea and vomiting:
Acute starts within a few hours of your treatment.
Delayed won’t kick in until 24 hours after treatment. It can last a few days
Anticipatory starts before you get chemo, because you expect to feel sick.
Constant vomiting can take a toll. It can leave you weak, dry your body out, and steal nutrients it needs. You might also get an electrolyte imbalance, which means you don’t have enough of things like sodium and potassium that make your systems run. If you feel very sick, you might have to lower your chemotherapy dose or stop the treatment entirely.
Some types of chemo are more likely than others to make you sick. It happens more often with the drugs cisplatin (Platinol) and doxorubicin (Adriamycin).
You're also more likely to have these problems if you:
Get several chemotherapy treatments close together