Purpose: The prevention of chemotherapy-induced vomiting has been improved by antiemetics, but nausea remains problematic. This study explores the concept that this is partly because patients use the term nausea to describe a cluster of symptoms.Methods: A total of 42 cancer patients currently being treated (n = 21) or at least 6 months of past treatment (median 3.5 years; n = 21) with experience of chemotherapy-induced nausea consented to semi-structured interviews about nausea, which were transcribed and analysed. There were 24 females and 18 males.Results: The nature, number, location, duration and intensity of experiences described as nausea varied. Physical and psychological symptoms included dry retching, vomiting, anorexia, indigestion, change of taste, dizziness, bloating, reflux, inability to concentrate, fatigue and restlessness. Patients located nausea in sites ranging from the head/neck, sternum and mid and lower abdomen to the whole body. Some patients identified symptoms as part of the experience of nausea, and others described symptoms associated with nausea but separate from it. For most, distinguishing features of chemotherapy-induced (as opposed to other) nausea were its constant presence over time, fatigue and emotional associations with the cancer diagnosis. Triggers varied and included food (smells), negative emotions including anxiety, movement, smells (e.g., hand cream, cleaning products), treatment-related events, tooth brushing and mentioning nausea. Prescribed antiemetics were consistently noted as reducing the intensity of, but for many, not completely alleviating, nausea. Distraction and relaxation were preferred management techniques.Conclusion: Control of nausea will require treating the particular cluster of symptoms which a patient is experiencing as nausea.
- Symptom cluster