You may have spoken with friends or family members on chemotherapy, or seen TV or movie depictions of someone undergoing the treatment, and assumed nausea and vomiting are an inevitable side effect of chemo. But you don’t have to suffer through nausea and vomiting – or any other disease- or treatment-induced symptoms or side effects – without your healthcare team’s help.
Seeing healthcare professionals who focus on symptom management and supportive (palliative) care improves outcomes and is critical for your quality of life. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) strongly recommends that symptom management and supportive (palliative) care should be provided early in your diagnosis as well as during and after treatment.
“The first step to managing symptoms and side effects like nausea and vomiting is to let you your medical team know what you are experiencing as well as how you’re feeling,” said Nicole Feingold, MA, director of Patient Services at PanCAN.
It may be helpful to maintain a journal between treatments and appointments, to make sure you chronicle which symptoms you experience when, and to what degree of severity.
Your healthcare providers will then determine whether certain medications could help alleviate your symptoms. Consulting with a dietitian could be helpful, also, as certain types of food and drink may be particularly beneficial or detrimental when experiencing nausea and vomiting.
“Even simple approaches you might not have considered – like wearing looser clothing or getting fresh air – can help relieve some of the feelings of nausea and vomiting,” Feingold said.
She continued, “Not all patients experience the same symptoms and side effects, even when they’re undergoing the same treatment regimen. The best management of those symptoms may vary from patient to patient, too.”
Knowing how to manage symptoms, and providing a referral to another member of the multidisciplinary team when appropriate, are among the reasons why seeing a doctor with considerable experience treating pancreatic cancer patients is important.
“PanCAN Patient Services can help provide a list of pancreatic cancer specialists, physicians who diagnose and treat a high volume of pancreatic cancer patients, near you,” Feingold said. “Our Case Managers can also provide resources and information about all aspects of dealing with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis.”
Feingold added: “Though every pancreatic cancer patient’s response to the disease and treatment is different, symptoms can be managed if you work with your healthcare team. That includes nausea and vomiting, which used to be seen as an inevitable part of cancer treatment. Talk to your healthcare team about every symptom and side effect you experience, because there may be supportive care strategies to help.”