Bowel problems

To reduce the effects of radiation on the bowel, the radiation therapists may advise you to drink fluids before each session so you have a full bladder. This will expand your bladder and push the bowel higher up into the abdomen, away from the radiation.

Even with precautions, radiation therapy can irritate the lining of the bowel or stomach. This may lead to side effects such as:

  • frequent loose bowel movements or diarrhoea
  • abdominal cramps minor bleeding
  • feeling an urgency to empty the bowels even though little faeces is passed
  • mucus in the faeces
  • excess wind
  • discomfort opening the bowels.

Talk to your treatment team about ways to manage any bowel issues that occur. You can also visit the Australian Government’s Bladder and Bowel website.

Tips for managing diarrhoea

  • Avoid high-fibre and spicy foods, e.g. wholegrains, nuts, legumes and curries, which can trigger diarrhoea.
  • Drink lots of clear liquids when you first notice symptoms of diarrhoea to avoid dehydration. Try apple juice, weak tea and clear broth.
  • Eat or drink as well as you can so your body gets the energy and nutrients it needs.
  • Check with your treatment team before taking any home remedies. You may be prescribed medicine to relieve diarrhoea, and taking them together may cause unwanted effects.
  • Slowly reintroduce fresh fruits, vegetables, and wholegrain breads and pasta after the diarrhoea has stopped.
  • Contact your treatment team immediately if there is blood in your bowel motions or if you have more than 5–6 bowel movements in 24 hours.

This information was last reviewed in December 2017
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