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Chemotherapy Side Effects: Nausea and Vomiting

Definition of Nausea, Retching, Vomiting, Anticipatory Vomiting

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© American Cancer Society 2010

Nausea is an unpleasant wavelike sensation in the stomach and back of throat. It can be accompanied by symptoms such as sweating, light-headedness, dizziness, increased salivation, and weakness. It can lead to retching, vomiting, or both.

Retching is a rhythmic movement of the diaphragm and stomach muscles that are controlled by the vomiting center.

Vomiting is a process controlled by the vomiting center that causes the contents of the stomach to be forced out through the mouth. Vomiting can happen right after chemotherapy, or later. If it happens within minutes to hours after chemotherapy, it is called acute vomiting. If it develops or continues for 24 hours or more after chemotherapy, it is called delayed vomiting or delayed emesis. This type sometimes lasts for days.

Anticipatory vomiting can happen when you have had a bad experience with nausea and vomiting in the past that was not treated. This conditioned response can be stimulated by sights, sounds, or odors. As a result, you develop nausea and vomiting when placed in the same situation (for example, before receiving the next chemotherapy treatment). There are some types of treatment that may help this after it has started, but prevention is best.

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