Diarrhoea is the frequent passing of loose or watery stools, and/or the need to pass motion more often than usual. You may or may not experience pain or discomfort, but severe and persistent diarrhoea can cause complications such as dehydration and imbalanced electrolytes, which are life-threatening if left untreated. It is therefore advisable for you to inform your doctor or nurse early, if you develop diarrhoea.
Causes of Diarrhoea
What you need to look out for
How it can be treated
Your doctor will ask you further questions (e.g. when the diarrhoea started) and conduct a physical examination, to determine the cause of your diarrhoea. Your doctor may also order for further investigations (e.g. stool investigations or imaging scans) if needed. Treatment for diarrhoea depends on its cause, as well as any symptoms or complications that you have. For instance, your doctor may adjust your chemotherapy regimen if you develop severe diarrhoea from chemotherapy. Anti-diarrhoeal medications (e.g. loperamide, lomotil) may also be prescribed, or you may need to have fluids infused into your vein if you are dehydrated.
What you can do
Besides taking note of the frequency and appearance of your stools, the following are some of the do’s and don’ts to help you to manage diarrhoea:
Fluids and nutrition
Care of your skin
When to call your cancer care team
Please inform your doctor or nurse if you notice symptoms of diarrhoea, if your diarrhoea does not improve despite treatment, or you develop the following symptoms that may indicate worsening or complications of the condition:
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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