Brain radiotherapy and sickness | Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Brain radiotherapy and sickness

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about how to cope with feeling sick during or after brain radiotherapy. There is information about


Sickness during brain radiotherapy

Radiotherapy to the lower part of the brain can make you feel sick (nausea). Very occasionally, the treatment might actually make you sick afterwards. This may happen more than an hour after the treatment session. 

The sickness might last for a few weeks after the treatment has finished. Medicines, diet, and sometimes complementary therapies can help to control sickness.


Medicines for sickness

Sickness can usually be well controlled with medicines. Your radiotherapy doctor (clinical oncologist) can prescribe anti sickness tablets (anti emetics) for you to take. Some people find that they can manage by taking an anti sickness tablet about 20 to 60 minutes before having treatment.

Other people find they manage better by taking anti sickness tablets regularly throughout the day during their course of treatment. You can discuss which would be best for you with your radiotherapy staff.

If your anti sickness tablets don't seem to help, make sure you go back to your radiotherapy team. There are lots of different anti sickness medicines and sometimes it takes a couple of tries to find the one that suits you.

Anti sickness medicines can often greatly reduce sickness. But other methods, such as complementary therapies or changing your diet might also help.


Complementary therapies for sickness

Various complementary therapies are used by people with cancer to help control nausea and vomiting. 

Some people find that relaxation techniques such as visualisation help to reduce their nausea. Others have found that hypnotherapy and acupuncture can help, especially if the very thought of having treatment makes you sick. This is called anticipatory nausea and vomiting.

Acupressure bracelets or Seabands press on acupuncture points in the wrist and might help to reduce nausea for some people.


Diet tips for sickness

What you eat plays an important part in helping to control sickness. Below are some tips that may be helpful

  • Avoid eating or preparing food when you feel sick.
  • Avoid fried foods, fatty foods or foods with a strong smell.
  • Eat cold or slightly warm food if the smell of cooked or cooking food makes you feel sick.
  • Eat several small meals and snacks each day.
  • Chew your food well.
  • Have a small meal a few hours before treatment (but not just before).
  • Drink lots of liquid, taking small sips slowly throughout the day.
  • Avoid filling your stomach with a large amount of liquid before eating.
  • Eating fresh pineapple chunks helps to keep your mouth fresh and moist.
  • If you are worried about losing weight, ask your doctor to prescribe high energy drinks for you.
  • Sipping supplements might be easier than eating a full meal – or you can drink them between meals for extra calories.
  • Don't give yourself a hard time if you really don't feel like eating – you can make up for lost calories after your treatment ends.
  • If you aren't eating well it is still important to have plenty of fluids.
  • Try sipping fizzy drinks.
  • Eat dry crackers.


Some people find ginger very good for reducing nausea. If you like ginger, try it however you prefer, for example as crystallised stem ginger. You can add freshly ground ginger to your favourite foods or to hot water to make a soothing tea. Or you could try eating ginger biscuits or sipping ginger ale. You can buy ginger tea bags in supermarkets.


More information about radiotherapy

Find out about

Side effects of radiotherapy

Complementary therapies




Coping with sickness

Managing diet problems

For general information and support

Contact the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040 (Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)

Share experiences on our online forum – Cancer Chat

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 5 out of 5 based on 6 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 14 March 2016