Constipation in Cancer Patients

By  ,  National Institute of Health
Jan 13, 2013

Constipation in Cancer Patients

What it is ?

Constipation occurs when bowel movements become less frequent and stools become hard, dry, and difficult to pass. You may have painful bowel movements, feel bloated, or have nausea. You may belch, pass a lot of gas, and have stomach cramps or pressure in the rectum.

Why it happens ?

Chemotherapy, the location of the cancer, pain medication, and other medicines can cause constipation. It can also happen when you do not drink enough liquids or do not eat enough fiber. Some people get constipation when they are not active.

Ways to manage with food

  • Drink plenty of liquids. Drink at least 8 cups of liquids each day. One cup is equal to 8 ounces. For ideas, see the list of clear liquids.
  • Drink hot liquids. Many people find that drinking warm or hot liquids (such as coffee, tea, and soup) can help relieve constipation. You might also try drinking hot liquids right after meals.
  • Eat high-fiber foods. These include whole grain breads and cereals, dried fruits, and cooked dried beans or peas. People with certain types of cancer should not eat a lot of fiber, so check with your doctor before adding fiber to your diet.













Talk with your doctor before taking laxatives, stool softeners, or any medicine to relieve constipation.

Other ways to manage

  1. Talk with a dietitian. He or she can suggest foods to help relieve constipation.
  2. Keep a record of your bowel movements. Show this to your doctor or nurse and talk about what is normal for you. This record can be used to figure out whether you have constipation.
  3. Be active each day. Being active can help prevent and relieve constipation. Talk with your doctor about how active you should be and what kind of exercise to do.
  4. Let your doctor or nurse know if you have not had a bowel movement in 2 days. Your doctor may suggest a fiber supplement, laxative, stool softener, or enema. Do not use any of these without first asking your doctor or nurse.


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