Siteman Education Series – Constipation


Welcome to the Siteman Cancer Center
patient education video library. The purpose of this video is to talk about
constipation, a very common but controllable symptom for many people
with cancer. Constipation occurs when a person has a
feeling of needing to move the bowels, but is unable to pass stool. In addition,
people with constipation may experience the following symptoms: pain and cramping,
swelling of the abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. It is very important
to treat constipation early and properly. Without treatment
constipation may cause internal damage to the intestine or slow down the
absorption of medicines taken by mouth. Constipation can be caused by many
things including the cancer treatment itself or medications you are taking.
Other factors contributing to constipation can include a lack of
exercise, not drinking enough fluids and poor eating habits. Dietitians recommend
eating at the same times each day and drinking a hot beverage or eating hot
cereal for breakfast to stimulate a bowel movement. Always talk with your
health care team about the best way to manage constipation because even the
standard suggestions of increasing fiber and/or fluids can be counterproductive.
For patients with cancer, it is critical that you check with your doctor before
taking any laxatives because not all laxatives work the same way. They can
interact with certain antibiotics, heart medications or pain medication you are
taking. With the advice of your health care team, ask about changing the dose or stopping medicines that cause constipation. Your doctor may tell you to
eat more fiber or take fiber supplements. However if you have scar tissue or a
tumor narrowing your bowel your doctor may recommend a low fiber diet.
Call your Siteman Cancer Center doctor or nurse if you experience constipation
or are considering using an over-the-counter medicine for
constipation.

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