Diarrhoea is when your bowel motions become watery, urgent and frequent. You may also get abdominal cramping, wind and pain. Surgery for pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy, radiation therapy to the abdomen, medicines, infections, reactions to certain foods, and anxiety can all cause diarrhoea.
If the tips below don’t work, talk to your doctor about whether to take anti-diarrhoea medicine. You should also let your doctor know if your stools are pale in colour, oily, very smelly, float and are difficult to flush, or you notice an oily film floating in the toilet. This may be a sign that you do not have enough pancreatic enzymes. You may need to start enzyme replacement therapy or adjust your dose.
If diarrhoea occurs 15–30 minutes after eating, you may have dumping syndrome. This happens when partially digested food moves into the small bowel too quickly. Speak to your team about ways to manage this.
- Drink plenty of liquids (e.g. water, fruit juice, cordial) to replace lost fluids.
- Avoid alcohol and limit caffeine and spicy foods as these can all make diarrhoea worse.
- Try lactose-reduced milk or soy milk if you develop a temporary intolerance to the sugar in milk (lactose). This can sometimes occur when you have diarrhoea. Small amounts of hard cheese and yoghurt are usually okay.
- Always let your treatment team know about any bowel changes. For further support and tips, you can call the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
Podcast: Appetite Loss and Nausea
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Dr Benjamin Loveday, Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) Surgeon, Royal Melbourne Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Katherine Allsopp, Palliative Medicine Physician, Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Hollie Bevans, Senior Dietitian, Radiotherapy and Oncology, Western Health, VIC; Dr Lorraine Chantrill, Head of Department Medical Oncology, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, NSW; Amanda Maxwell, Consumer; Prof Michael Michael, Medical Oncologist, Lower and Upper GI Oncology Service, Co-Chair Neuroendocrine Unit, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and University of Melbourne, VIC; Dr Andrew Oar, Radiation Oncologist, Icon Cancer Centre, Gold Coast University Hospital, QLD; Meg Rogers, Nurse Consultant Upper GI/NET Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ady Sipthorpe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA.
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