- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Managing chemotherapy side effects
- Constipation or diarrhoea
Constipation or diarrhoea
Some chemotherapy drugs, pain medicines and anti-nausea drugs can cause constipation or diarrhoea. Tell your doctor or nurse if your bowel habits have changed.
Learn more about managing:
- Eat more high-fibre foods, such as wholegrain bread and pasta, bran, fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes (e.g. baked beans or lentils).
- Drink plenty of fluids, both warm and cold, to help loosen the bowels. Prune, apple or pear juice can work well.
- Do some light exercise, such as walking.
- Ask your doctor about using a laxative, stool softener and/or fibre supplement.
- Avoid enemas or suppositories as they may cause infection.
- Let your treatment team know if you have constipation for more than a couple of days. They will be able to help.
- Choose bland foods such as clear broth or boiled rice. Avoid spicy foods, wholegrain products, fatty or fried foods, rich sauces, and raw fruits or vegetables with skins or seeds.
- Limit alcohol, fruit juice, soft drinks, strong tea or coffee, and dairy products, as these stimulate the bowel.
- Drink water to help replace fluids lost through diarrhoea.
- Talk to your cancer care team – they may change the treatment or suggest other solutions, such as using over-the-counter medicines.
- If diarrhoea is severe, let your cancer care team know. It can cause dehydration and you may need to go to hospital.
Dr Prunella Blinman, Medical Oncologist, Concord Cancer Centre, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and Clinical Senior Lecturer, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, NSW; Gillian Blanchard, Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Calvary Mater Newcastle, and Conjoint Lecturer, School of Nursing and Midwifery, The University of Newcastle, NSW; Julie Bolton, Consumer; Keely Gordon-King, Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; John Jameson, Consumer; Dr Zarnie Lwin, Medical Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Senior Lecturer, School of Medicine, The University of Queensland, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Dr Felicia Roncolato, Medical Oncology Staff Specialist, Macarthur Cancer Therapy Centre, NSW. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title.
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