What can help with feeling and being sick?

There are ways to manage feeling and being sick if you have pancreatic cancer, such as anti-sickness medicines.

What's in the 'Feeling and being sick' section?

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

Anti-sickness medicines

There are lots of different anti-sickness medicines available. Follow your doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s instructions for how to take them. It helps to take the medicines 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 medicines work better if you take them 30 minutes before eating.

If the medicines don’t help, speak to your doctor about changing to a different one.

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

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

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

  • Domperidone helps food to pass through the stomach into the bowel. It comes as tablets or a liquid.
  • 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 pump.
  • 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 also be given through a syringe pump.
  • 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 should not be taken for a long time as they can cause severe constipation (when you find it harder to poo).
  • Aprepitantis is a tablet that may be used for people having chemotherapy if other anti-sickness medicines have not worked. It is usually combined with steroids and serotonin blockers. Fosaprepitant is similar and given as an injection.
  • Dexamethasone is a steroid. It is mainly used for people having chemotherapy. It is usually for short term use or may be given in low doses for longer periods.
  • Sedatives can be used for longer lasting sickness after chemotherapy, or for sickness from other medicines such as morphine. They include levomepromazine and haloperidol. They come as a tablet, a liquid or through an injection or infusion.

Anti-sickness medicines 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 medicine.

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.
  • If the smell of food is making you feel sick, try asking someone to help prepare food for you. Closing the kitchen door can also reduce the smell.
  • Some food and drinks can help. For example, some people find ginger or peppermint drinks can help. Try ginger beer or mint tea.
  • Try avoiding very spicy, fatty or sweet foods as these may make nausea worse.
  • 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 if you have been sick. Brush your teeth regularly and rinse your mouth with mouthwash. After being sick, wait for about 30 minutes before brushing your teeth, as stomach acid can weaken tooth enamel. Brushing straight away can make this worse.
  • Tell your medical team if you have white spots in your mouth. This could be oral thrush, which can make sickness worse. It can be treated easily.
  • 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.
  • Read more tips for things that can help with sickness.

"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.”

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.

Published June 2022

To be reviewed June 2025