Sometimes radiotherapy to the chest can cause you to feel and be sick (nausea and vomiting). This is because the treatment area might include part of the stomach. And radiotherapy to the stomach can cause nausea and vomiting. 

This might last for a few weeks after the treatment has finished. The sickness might be worse if you are having chemotherapy at the same time as the radiotherapy.

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) or specialist nurse can prescribe some anti sickness tablets (anti emetics) for you to take.

Most people find they can manage by taking an anti sickness tablet about 20 minutes or an hour before each radiotherapy session.

Other people find they manage better by taking anti sickness tablets regularly throughout the day while having a course of treatment. You can discuss with your doctor or specialist nurse which would be best for you.

Make sure you go back to your doctor or specialist nurse and tell them if your anti sickness tablets don't seem to help. There are lots of different anti sickness medicines and sometimes it takes a few tries to find the one that suits you.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can help to relax you. This might help with feeling sick. 

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

Here are some tips that might be helpful:

  • Avoid fried foods, fatty foods or foods with a strong smell.
  • Have a small meal a few hours before treatment but not just before.
  • Drink lots of liquid, taking small sips slowly throughout the day - but avoid drinking a lot just before treatment.
  • Avoid filling your stomach with a large amount of liquid before eating.
  • Eating fresh pineapple chunks can help to keep your mouth fresh and moist.
  • If you are worried about losing weight, ask your doctor to prescribe high calorie drinks.
  • Ask someone else to make your meals for you, if you can.
  • Try eating small meals or snacks more often rather than large meals.
  • Try sipping fizzy drinks.
  • Eat dry crackers.

Some people find ginger very good for reducing nausea. You can try ginger 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. You can buy ginger tea bags in supermarkets. Or you can try eating ginger biscuits or sipping ginger ale. 

Weight loss

Sickness or problems eating can cause you to lose weight. You may feel tired and weak. Sometimes you might not feel like eating at all. It is important to try and maintain a well-balanced diet where possible as this can help to speed up your recovery. The dietitian or your doctor can give you advice if eating is a problem. 

  • Devita, Hellman and Rosenberg's Cancer Principles and Practice of Oncology (11th edition)
    VT Devita, TS Lawrence and SA Rosenberg
    Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019

  • Cancer and its Management (7th edition)
    J Tobias and D Hochhauser
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

Last reviewed: 
10 Nov 2020
Next review due: 
10 Nov 2023

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