Having infrequent or difficult-to-pass bowel motions is known as constipation. Common causes include lack of exercise, eating less fibre, or not drinking enough fluids. Opioid medicines, some anti-nausea medicines and some chemotherapy drugs also cause constipation.
Severe constipation plus abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting may be signs of a blockage in the bowel (bowel obstruction). This occasionally happens with peritoneal mesothelioma. To relieve the symptoms, you may have a small tube (stent) put in to help keep the bowel open. If the bowel is completely blocked, it needs to be cleared with emergency surgery.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat fresh fruit and vegetables and fibre-rich foods (e.g. prunes), unless your doctor advises otherwise.
- Try to be physically active every day. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist to find the exercise that is right for you.
- Ask your doctor how to manage constipation. You may be prescribed medicines to help control symptoms.
- Try over-the-counter laxatives such as Coloxyl with senna, Duphalac or Movicol, but check the dose with the pharmacist and let your doctor know. Don’t wait too long before starting laxatives.
- Talk to your treatment team about how to manage bowel obstruction. If your stomach is swollen and you are in pain, call 000 as it may be an emergency.
A/Prof Brian McCaughan, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; Theodora Ahilas, Principal Lawyer, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, NSW; Prof David Ball, Director, Lung Service, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Shirley Bare, Consumer; Cassandra Dickens, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Cancer Care Coordinator – Thoracic Malignancies, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Penny Jacomos, Social Worker, Asbestos Diseases Society of South Australia, SA; A/Prof Thomas John, Medical Oncologist, Senior Clinical Research Fellow, Austin Health, and Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, VIC; Victoria Keena, Executive Officer, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Penny Lefeuvre, Consumer; Jocelyn McLean, Mesothelioma Support Coordinator, Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, NSW; Prof David Morris, Peritonectomy Surgeon, St George Hospital and University of New South Wales, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Prof Anna Nowak, Medical Oncologist, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, The University of Western Australia, WA; Prof Jennifer Philip, Palliative Care Specialist, St Vincent’s Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Royal Melbourne Hospital, VIC; Nicole Taylor, Acting Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma Cancer Specialist Nurse, The Canberra Hospital, ACT. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. Previous editions of this title and related resources were funded in part by the Heads of Asbestos Coordination Authorities and a donation from Lyall Watts.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a qualified health professional someone who has been there, support groups & forum
Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Nutrition and cancer
Learn about nutrition, and suggest tips for eating well during and after cancer treatment
Exercise during cancer
Exercise helps most people during cancer treatment. Find out which exercises are best for you, and watch our series of exercise videos
Patient rights and responsibilities
What you can reasonably expect from your health care providers