Nausea: the neglected symptom?

Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2005 Mar;9(1):21-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ejon.2004.03.006.


Advances in antiemetic therapy over the past decade have undoubtedly eased the burden of radiotherapy- and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. Despite this, these distressing side-effects of cancer therapy are still experienced by some patients. Moreover, nausea has both a higher incidence and a greater effect on patient quality of life than vomiting. The impact of nausea may therefore warrant more attention than perhaps it has received previously, and there is undoubtedly room for improvement regarding its treatment. Recognizing and treating nausea is complicated by the fact that it can only be measured subjectively by the patient rather than objectively by clinical staff. However, various patient-centred strategies may be employed by nurses to ensure self-reporting of the occurrence and impact of nausea. Nurses may also be best placed to identify patient-related prognostic factors in order to determine the risk of nausea. Antiemetic guidelines recommend the use of a 5-HT3-receptor antagonist for the control of emesis with moderate and highly emetogenic cancer therapy. Although guidelines do not distinguish between the available agents, pharmacological differences do exist, and it is necessary to consider this when tailoring regimens to individual patients. As with any therapy, less complicated dosing regimens are likely to improve compliance, an issue that may be particularly pertinent in nauseated patients who are unable to ingest multiple doses. Furthermore, the focus of antiemetic therapy should be on prevention, as the presence and severity of acute symptoms have been linked to occurrence of symptoms in the delayed phase and the likelihood of anticipatory nausea and vomiting with further treatment cycles. This review aims to assess the potentially neglected symptom of nausea and focuses on recognizing and controlling this side-effect of cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / nursing
  • Nausea / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Oncology Nursing
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Vomiting / etiology
  • Vomiting / nursing
  • Vomiting / prevention & control*


  • Antiemetics