is said above, chemotherapy targets most cells that divide rapidly. The cells in the intestinal lining are among
normal cells that have a rapid cellular division - the process in reproduction and growth by which a cell divides to form daughter
cells. That is, they tend to be attacked and damaged during chemotherapy, causing diarrhea,
constipation and pain. In addition, the diarrhea can be due to radiation to abdomen or pelvis, anxiety,
stress, malnutrition or colon surgery (in case of colorectal cancer). Without a proper treatment, the
diarrhea can lead to stomach pain and cramping, bloating, nausea, loss of appetite and skin irritation due to
dehydration (the body does not have enough water and fluids).
In addition to diarrhea,
certain anticancer medications and pain relievers (in patients who are in pain) can cause constipation. These
symptoms may also occur due to a diet poor in fibers, fruit and fluids. Inadequate exercise can cause some
patients to get constipated. Certain medical conditions and medications can also cause
constipation. Patients who take pain medications have a high risk for constipation during cancer
What You Can Do?
There are steps cancer
patients can take to prevent or relieve diarrhea and/or constipation:
all foods that can irritate the lining of the intestine
plenty of fruits: apple, pears, prunes, carrots, raspberries,
strawberry, banana, and
others. Ask your doctor if you can eat grapefruit, as it can interact with certain chemotherapy
foods rich in fiber: whole-wheat s
paghetti and/or bread, oat bran
brown rice, cereals, vegetables, lentils, almonds, and others.
at least 8 glasses of water or other
non-alcoholic drinks per day; unless
you are told otherwise by your doctor.
for about thirty minutes about 5 times a week; talk to your doctor first. Fast walking is convenient for
In case the above is not
enough, your doctor can recommend you to take appropriate medications. Most of the times, one
more of the following medications can be prescribed to prevent or treat intestinal problems caused by
hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia)
- Psyllium (Metamucil)
and sodium phosphate (Fleet's enema).
doctor or health care provider if you experience any of the following:
- High or
- Pain in
unable to pass gas or stool
- Pain or
inflammation in the stomach area
and/or vomiting along with your constipation
Complete absence of bowel movement for three consecutive days.