As it 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
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:
foods that can irritate the lining of the intestine
of fruits: apple, pears, prunes, carrots, raspberries,
and others. Ask your doctor if you can eat grapefruit, as it can interact with certain chemotherapy
rich in fiber: whole-wheat
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.
about thirty minutes about 5 times a week; talk to your doctor first. Fast walking is convenient for cancer
In case the above
is not enough, your doctor can recommend you to take appropriate medications. Most of the times, one
or more of
the following medications can be prescribed to prevent or treat intestinal problems caused by chemotherapy:
hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia)
sodium phosphate (Fleet's enema).
doctor or health care provider if you experience any of the following:
Pain in your
to pass gas or stool
inflammation in the stomach area
and/or vomiting along with your constipation
absence of bowel movement for three consecutive days.
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