BC Cancer Agency
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Nausea and vomiting

Dr. Christine Maheu, RN, PhD

Dr. Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor in the Ingram School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Maheu is also an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. At McGill University, she teaches research methods, supervises graduate students (masters, doctoral, post-doctoral), mentors practicing nurses and students in research, and conducts research in English and French. She has held research awards with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. These awards funded her research in psychosocial oncology, which focuses on developing and testing psychosocial interventions or measurements tools for various cancer populations. Additionally, in partnership with Ipsos Canada and funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, she is co-leading a nationwide survey of the needs of cancer patients for transition care from the end of their treatment to three years after their diagnosis. Dr. Maheu received awards for excellence in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and the Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology.

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Ms. Rosemary Cashman

Ms. Rosemary Cashman is a nurse practitioner at the BC Cancer Agency and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Her professional experience includes the care of lymphoma, lung cancer and brain cancer patients. She co-chairs the Patient and Family Advisory Council, which guides the brain tumour care program at the BC Cancer Agency. She has authored book chapters and articles related to the care of brain tumour patients and their families. Ms. Cashman was involved in developing and implementing a rapid-access radiotherapy clinic for the palliative treatment of lung cancer and she continues to work in this clinic.

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Kyla Johnson, Occupational Therapist, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital

Ms. Kyla Johnson, M.Sc.A., originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Kyla Johnson works as an Occupational Therapist at the Segal Cancer Center of the Jewish General Hospital. She holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from McGill University. Her goal as a rehabilitation professional in Oncology is to enable people with cancer to be able to do what they want and need to do, in all stages of their cancer experience. Kyla helps develop strategies and accommodations to facilitate a return to meaningful life roles, including work. She is specialized in cancer-related cognitive dysfunction and runs a weekly group teaching strategies to improve daily cognitive functioning. Kyla also leads a volunteer yoga class for young adults with cancer. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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Ms. Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, M.Ed. C.C.R.C, BC Cancer

Ms. Maureen Parkinson is the province-wide vocational rehabilitation counsellor at the BC Cancer Agency. She has also been vocational rehabilitation counsellor at a public rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation consultant to insurance companies and the court system. She has instructed and facilitated Service-Canada-funded programs on job searching and career exploration. Ms. Parkinson has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program through the National Institute for Disability Management and Research. She has developed return-to-work and job-search seminars for cancer patients and created the guidebook “Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients” as well as on-line articles about returning to work and school. She also co-authored a paper commissioned by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, “Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective”.

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Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy but may also be caused by radiotherapy, some medications and cancer itself1.

Vocational implications

The experience of nausea may make you sensitive to the scent of food, perfumes and other strong smells. This sensitivity to scent may make it difficult to be around co-workers, or even to travel to and from work. If you feel nauseated, you may be at risk for nutritional deficiency, which can adversely affect your health and stamina. There are medications that are helpful in preventing or relieving nausea, but some of these have side effects such as a headache, constipation or sleepiness and these can also pose challenges for work.

What you can do

Talk to your healthcare team if you are experiencing nausea and/or vomiting. There is a wide range of medications that can be helpful for this problem. Also, some non-pharmacological interventions have been shown to be beneficial, including:

  • acupuncture and acupressure2
  • dietary changes, for example, small frequent meals, bland foods, ginger tea, etc.
  • distraction
  • guided imagery
  • music therapy3

Here are some other tips for managing nausea:
Nausea and Vomiting (BC Cancer Agency)
How to Manage Your Nausea and Vomiting (PDF; Cancer Care Ontario)
Nutritional Management of Nausea During Cancer Treatment (Christy Brissette, MSc, RD, Oncology Dietitian, 80 Twenty Nutrition)

Job accommodations

Modify your work tasks and how you work:

  • Work from home when possible.
  • Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. If your work requires a uniform, request alternative clothing options that do not restrict your chest or abdomen.
  • Learn deep breathing techniques and apply these when experiencing nausea. Incorporate relaxation into your breaks—with or without an audio guide.

Modify your work environment:

  • Relocate your workstation closer to the washroom. Request access to a washroom that is used only by yourself if possible.
  • Request a private place to store a facecloth or wipes, mouthwash, and a toothbrush.
  • Modify your workstation temperature: consider using fans, portable air conditioners or humidifiers/de-humidifiers for comfort.
  • Relocate your workstation away from strong odours.

Control sensory input:

  • Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to limit bothersome sounds.
  • Work facing a wall instead of a busy hallway to decrease visual input.
  • Optimize the lighting in your environment to your comfort.
  • Request that your workplace abides by a fragrance- and smoke-free policy.


Other challenges to nutrition and feeding

Back to the list of common cancer treatment side effects