Constipation is the experience of having difficulty in passing motion. It is common in people with cancer, and may cause discomfort, cramps, bloating, or pain in the abdominal area. In some people, it can also lead to distressing complications such as urinary problems, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. As early treatment will prevent the condition from worsening, it is advisable for you to inform your doctor or nurse if you are experiencing difficulties with your bowel movements.
Causes of Constipation
What you need to look out for
How it can be treated
Your doctor will ask you further questions (e.g. your usual bowel routine, your last bowel movement) and conduct a physical examination, to determine the cause of your constipation. Your doctor may also order for further investigations (e.g. x-rays) if needed. As the treatment for constipation depends on its cause, your healthcare team will be able to advise you in detail on the management plan that is most suited to your condition. For instance, increasing fiber intake is advised in some cases but
discouraged if your cancer is narrowing your bowels, since accumulation of fiber in the narrowed areas can cause a bowel obstruction.
Common treatment approaches include:
Returning to your regular bowel habit and being able to pass stools easily is the goal of successful treatment. As the above approaches may not be suitable for everyone, be sure to speak to your doctor or nurse before starting on any treatment.
What you can do
The following are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you to manage and prevent constipation:
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse if you notice any symptoms of constipation, or if your constipation does not improve despite treatment.
Please SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION if you develop the following symptoms:
If you have any questions regarding the above, please call the Cancer Helpline at +65 6225 5655 or approach your doctor or nurse for further details.
The above contents have been approved by the Cancer Education Information Service, National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), for people with cancer and their families and caregivers.
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