• Coping With Constipation Related to Chemotherapy

     Some anticancer medicines, pain medicines, and other medicines can cause constipation. It can also occur if you are less active or if your diet lacks enough fluid or fiber. If you have not had a bowel movement in two days, call your doctor, who may suggest a fiber supplement, laxative, stool softener, or using an enema. Do not take these measures without checking with your doctor, especially if your white blood cell count or platelets are low .

    What to Do About Constipation

    Here are some tips that may help:
    • Record your bowel movements in a notepad. Show this to your doctor.
    • Drink plenty of fluids to help loosen the bowels. If you do not have mouth sores, try warm and hot fluids, like coffee or tea. Water works especially well. Eight cups of water or other fluids each day is a good amount.
    • Check with your doctor to see if you can increase the fiber in your diet (there are certain kinds of cancer and certain side effects you may have for which a high-fiber diet is not recommended). High-fiber foods include bran, whole-wheat breads and cereals, raw or cooked vegetables, fresh and dried fruit, nuts, and popcorn.
    • Get some exercise every day. Go for a walk or try a more structured exercise program. Talk to your doctor about the amount and type of exercise that is right for you.
    In addition, patients taking pain medications on a regular basis will almost always need medications to help them prevent constipation. Usually they are given a stool softener with a laxative.

    RESOURCES

    American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org

    National Cancer Institute (NCI) http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/default.htm

    Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca

    References

    Constipation. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/chemo-side-effects/constipation. Accessed May 14, 2012.

    National Cancer Institute. Chemotherapy and you: support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf . Updated May 2007. Accessed May 14, 2012.

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