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What can help with feeling and being sick?

Tell your nurse or doctor if you are feeling or being sick. They can find the cause of your sickness and give you the most suitable anti-sickness drugs. They may also suggest other things that you can try.

Anti-sickness medication

There are lots of different anti-sickness medications available. Take the anti-sickness drugs as your doctor, nurse or pharmacist tells you to. It helps to take the drugs regularly, and as soon as you are given them. Don’t wait until you feel sick. It’s easier to prevent sickness, and if you wait too long the symptoms can be harder to treat. Many anti-sickness drugs work better if you take them 30 minutes before eating.

If the drugs you have been given don’t work, speak to your doctor about changing to a different anti-sickness medication.

What anti-sickness drugs are available for people with pancreatic cancer?

There are many different drugs that can help relieve sickness. Some are treatments for other conditions, but they can also treat sickness.

We have listed some of the anti-sickness drugs that are commonly used for pancreatic cancer. Other drugs may also be used – speak to your doctor or nurse about the best drugs for you. The drugs are listed under their generic (general) names, not their brand names.

  • Metoclopramide blocks the part of your brain that controls being sick. It also helps food to pass through the stomach into the bowel. It comes as tablets, a liquid or an injection and can also be given through a syringe driver. A syringe driver is a battery-operated machine that delivers a steady flow of medication under the skin.
  • Prochlorperazine blocks the part of your brain that controls being sick. It comes as a tablet you swallow, a tablet that dissolves in your mouth, or an injection.
  • Cyclizine stops messages being sent to the part of your brain that controls being sick. It comes as tablets or an injection. It can be given with other drugs through a syringe driver.
  • Serotonin blockers stop messages being sent to the part of your brain that controls being sick. They include ondansetron, granisetron and palonosetron. They come as tablets and injections, and work best when taken with a steroid. They shouldn’t be taken for a long time as they can cause severe constipation (problems emptying your bowels).
  • Aprepitant is a tablet that may be used if other anti-sickness drugs haven’t worked. It is usually combined with steroids and serotonin blockers. Fosaprepitant is a similar drug given as an injection.
  • Dexamethasone is a steroid. It is usually for short-term use, or may be given in low doses for longer periods. It is usually used after some chemotherapy drugs, combined with other anti-sickness drugs.
  • Sedatives can be used for longer lasting sickness after chemotherapy, or for sickness from other drugs such as morphine. They include levomepromazine and haloperidol. They come as a tablet, a liquid or through an injection or infusion.

Anti-sickness drugs can cause side effects. Talk to your doctor or nurse about how to manage any side effects that you get, or about changing to a different anti-sickness drug.

Can anything else help with sickness?

Some people with pancreatic cancer find other things can help them deal with sickness.

  • Your sickness may be worse if you have an empty stomach, so try eating little but often rather than three big meals a day. Even a small snack like dry toast or a ginger biscuit may help.
  • Some food and drinks can help. For example, some people find gingerand peppermint drinks can help – try ginger beer or mint tea. Read more tips for food and drink that can help with sickness.
  • Acupressure bracelets such as Sea-Bands® put pressure on a specific point on the inside of the wrist, which can help relieve nausea.
  • Keep your mouth clean – brush your teeth regularly and rinse your mouth with mouthwash if you have been sick.
  • You might also find it useful to keep a diary of when you feel sick and what you do about it. This can help you to see what causes your sickness and what makes it better or worse.

“I often have to nibble at things to keep nausea at bay.”

“I found having peppermints at hand helped nausea, plus I found that eating little but often helped a great deal.”

“My dad found sucking sweets helped with the bile taste in his mouth which made him feel very sick and prevented him eating at times.”

Can complementary therapies help with sickness?

Some people find that complementary therapies such as acupuncture, meditation and hypnotherapy can reduce sickness. This may be because they help you relax, and relieve stress and anxiety.

Always tell your medical team before you start a complementary therapy, as some may affect your cancer treatment. And tell your complementary therapist about your cancer treatment.

What causes nausea and vomiting?

Read about other problems linked with diet and digestion

Find out about managing other symptoms 

Published August 2018

To be reviewed August 2021

Information Standard