Patient expectancy and post-chemotherapy nausea: a meta-analysis

Ann Behav Med. 2010 Aug;40(1):3-14. doi: 10.1007/s12160-010-9186-4.


Background: Post-chemotherapy nausea remains a significant burden to cancer patients. While some studies indicate that expecting nausea is predictive of experiencing nausea, there are a number of conflicting findings.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to conduct a meta-analytic review to determine the strength of the relationship between expectancy and post-chemotherapy nausea.

Methods: The findings from 17 relevant studies (n = 2,400) identified through systematic searches of Medline, PsycInfo, and Cinhal were analyzed using a combination of meta-analytic techniques.

Results: Overall, there was a robust positive association between expectancy and post-chemotherapy nausea (ESr = 0.18, equivalent to Cohen's d = 0.35), suggesting that patients with stronger expectancies experience more chemotherapy-induced nausea. Although weaker associations were found in studies employing multivariate analysis, specifically controlling for a history of nausea, and involving breast cancer patients, none of the moderators assessed were statistically significant.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that patient expectancies may contribute to post-chemotherapy nausea and that expectancy-based manipulations may provide a useful intervention strategy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nausea / chemically induced*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents