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Radiation can cause nausea, vomiting and dry heaves.

  • Nausea is when you feel sick to your stomach and feel like you are going to throw up. 
  • Vomiting is when you throw up food and fluids. 
  • Dry heaves happen when your body tries to vomit even though your stomach is empty. 

Your risk for nausea and vomiting depends on how much radiation you are getting, how much of your body is in the treatment area, and whether you are also having chemotherapy.Nausea and vomiting may occur 30 minutes to many hours after your radiation therapy session ends.

  • You are likely to feel better on days that you do not have radiation therapy. 
  • You may feel nauseous or vomit the day or night before radiation in anticipation.

There are steps to take both before and after radiation to help reduce the possibility of nausea or vomiting, or the severity. For instance, relax before radiation. Afterward, eat small, easy to digest, meals of foods that are easy on the stomach.

Ask your doctor about medications to control nausea or vomiting.

Keep track of your symptoms to help a discussion with your doctor or other health care provider. We have a symptoms diary you can use to keep track. When you are ready to see a doctor, you can change your diary into an easy to read graph. See "To Learn More."

It is helpful to carry a bag with you in case you get nauseous outside your home.

It is helpful to carry a vomit bag with you 24/7 “just in case.”  

For additional infomration, see: 

NOTE: Also carry a List of Medications in case of emergency. Emergency personnel need to know what medications you are currently taking and have recently taken. We provide a form to use that you can store and change as necessary. 

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Related Charts

Symptoms Diary

How To Manage Nausea And Vomiting From Radiation

The best way to keep from vomiting is to prevent nausea. One way to do this is by having bland, easy-to-digest foods and drinks that do not upset your stomach. These include toast, gelatin, and apple juice. To learn more, see the list of Foods and Drinks That Are Easy on the Stomach.

Try to relax before treatment. You may feel less nausea if you relax before each radiation therapy treatment. You can do this by spending time doing activities you enjoy, such as reading a book, listening to music, or other hobbies.

Plan when to eat and drink. Some people feel better when they eat before radiation therapy; others do not. Learn the best time for you to eat and drink. For example, you might want a snack of crackers and apple juice 1 to 2 hours before radiation therapy. Or, you might feel better if you have treatment on an empty stomach, which means not eating 2 to 3 hours before treatment.

Eat small meals and snacks. Instead of eating 3 large meals each day, you may want to eat 5 or 6 small meals and snacks. Make sure to eat slowly and do not rush. Have foods and drinks that are warm or cool (not hot or cold).

Before eating or drinking, let hot food and drinks cool down and cold food and drinks warm up.

Distract yourself by talking with friends or family members, or watching a movie or TV show.

Use music therapy either under the guidance of a certified music therapist or on your own. There is no downside to music therapy.

  • To do music therapy on your own, listed to your favorite soothing music in a relaxed setting.
  • To find a certified music therapist, ask at your treatment center or look at the web site of the organization known as The Certification Board for Music Therapists, www.cbmt..or offsite linkg. Click on "Find a Board Certified Music Therapist" or call 800.765.2268.

Talk with your doctor or nurse. He or she may suggest a special diet of foods to eat or prescribe medicine to help prevent nausea, which you can take 1 hour before each radiation therapy session. You might also ask your doctor or nurse about acupuncture, which may help relieve nausea and vomiting caused by cancer treatment.

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More Information


Foods And Drinks That Are Easy On The Stomach

According to the National Cancer Institute, following is a list of full liquid foods that are easier during periods of nausea and vomiting. Below is a list of foods that are easy on the stomach.


TypesFoods and Drinks
  • Refined hot cereals (such as Cream of Wheat®, Cream of Rice®, instant oatmeal, and grits)
  • Bouillon
  • Broth
  • Soup that has been strained or put through a blender
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Coffee
  • Fruit drinks
  • Fruit punch
  • Milk
  • Milkshakes
  • Smoothies
  • Sports drinks
  • Tea
  • Tomato juice
  • Vegetable juice
  • Water
Desserts and snacks
  • Custard (soft or baked)
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Fruit purees that are watered down
  • Gelatin
  • Honey
  • Ice cream with no chunks (such as nuts or cookie pieces)
  • Ice milk
  • Jelly
  • Pudding
  • Sherbet
  • Sorbet
  • Syrup
  • Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
Meal replacement and supplements
  • Instant breakfast drinks (such as Carnation® Instant Breakfast®)
  • Liquid meal replacements (such as Ensure® and Boost®)
  • Clear nutrition supplements (such as Resource® Breeze, Carnation® Instant Breakfast® juice, and Enlive!®)




TypesFoods and Drinks
  • Clear broth (such as chicken, vegetable, or beef)
  • All kinds (strain or puree, if needed), except those made with foods that cause gas, such as dried beans and peas, broccoli, or cabbage
  • Clear carbonated drinks that have lost their fizz
  • Cranberry or grape juice
  • Fruit-flavored drinks
  • Fruit punch
  • Milk
  • Sports drinks
  • Tea
  • Vegetable juices
  • Water
Main meals and other food
  • Avocado
  • Beef (tender cuts)
  • Cheese, hard (mild types, such as American)
  • Cheese, soft or semi-soft (such as cottage cheese or cream cheese)
  • Chicken or turkey (broiled or baked without skin)
  • Eggs
  • Fish (poached or broiled)
  • Noodles
  • Pasta (plain)
  • Peanut butter, creamy (and other nut butters)
  • Potatoes, without skins (boiled or baked)
  • Pretzels
  • Refined cold cereals (such as corn flakes, Rice Krispies®, Rice Chex®, and Corn Chex®)
  • Refined hot cereals (such as Cream of Wheat®)
  • Saltine crackers
  • Tortillas (white flour)
  • Vegetables (tender, well-cooked)
  • White bread
  • White rice
  • White toast
Desserts and snacks
  • Angel food cake
  • Bananas
  • Canned fruit, such as applesauce, peaches, and pears
  • Custard
  • Frozen yogurt
  • Gelatin
  • Ice cream
  • Ice milk
  • Lemon drop candy
  • Popsicles
  • Pudding
  • Sherbet
  • Sorbet
  • Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
Meal replacements and supplements
  • Instant breakfast drinks (such as Carnation® Instant Breakfast®)
  • Liquid meal replacements (such as Ensure®)
  • Clear nutrition supplements (such as Resource® Breeze, Carnation® Instant Breakfast® juice, and Enlive!®)