Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) may be linked to the psychological status of cancer patients. Therefore, the authors aimed to better understand the underlying risk factors for CINV using the Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire. A total of 238 patients were recruited during three cycles of chemotherapy. Patient, disease and treatment characteristics were noted at the onset of chemotherapy. The Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire was administered face-to-face prior to chemotherapy. The relationship between illness perceptions and CINV was analyzed using Spearman's rank correlation. Positive illness perception parameters, including personal and treatment control, were negatively correlated, whereas negative illness perception parameters, including consequences, time line, identity, concern and emotions, were positively correlated with CINV after adjusting for age, sex and emetogenic potential of chemotherapy (p < 0.001). Illness perception may be an underlying risk factor for CINV.