Brain radiotherapy and sickness
This page tells you about feeling sick during or after brain radiotherapy. There is information about
Radiotherapy to the lower part of the brain can make you feel sick (nausea). Very occasionally, the treatment may actually make you sick afterwards. This may happen more than an hour after the treatment session. The sickness may last for a few weeks after the treatment has finished. Medicines, diet, and sometimes complementary therapies can help to control sickness.
The sickness can usually be well controlled with medicines. Your radiotherapy doctor (clinical oncologist) can prescribe some 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 they have treatment.
Other people find they manage better by taking anti sickness tablets regularly throughout the day while they are going through a course of treatment. You can discuss which would be best for you with your radiotherapy specialist, radiographer or nurse.
If the anti sickness tablets you are given don't seem to help, make sure you go back to your doctor, radiographer or nurse. 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 may also help.
A number of different types of complementary therapies are used by people with cancer to help control nausea and vomiting. Some people find that using relaxation techniques such as visualisation helps 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 may help to reduce nausea for some people.
What you eat can play an important part in helping to control feeling and being sick. 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 and 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
- Drink supplements may be easier to sip 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 are not eating well it is still important to have plenty of fluids
- Try sipping fizzy drinks
Some people find ginger very good for reducing nausea. If you like ginger, try it in whichever way you prefer, for example as crystallised stem ginger. Freshly ground ginger can be added to your favourite foods or to hot water to make a soothing tea. Or you can try eating ginger biscuits or sipping ginger ale. You can buy ginger tea bags in supermarkets.
In this section we have information about the other side effects of brain radiotherapy, including
You can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.
Our general organisations page gives details of people who can provide information about radiotherapy. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group. Our cancer and treatments reading list has information about books, leaflets and other resources about radiotherapy treatment.
If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.
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