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Constipation management

  • Constipation is one of the most common problems that cancer patients experience. Often, the cause can be a decrease in activity, fluids, or high-fiber foods, along with having to take anti-depressants, pain, blood pressure, or anti-nausea medications.

    Constipation is when you're unable to pass a stool or have very hard stools. People normally have bowel movements every one day to three days. If you're moving your bowels less than usual but not having difficulty passing stool, you are probably not constipated.

    To prevent constipation, drink plenty of fluids (eight to 10 glasses of decaffeinated beverages). You may also take natural fiber laxatives with stool softeners when needed.

    Remember, you can take steps to prevent constipation:

    1. Begin with a stool softener and gentle laxative

    • Senokot-S one to two (1-2) tablets with plenty of fluids two to three times a day. Senna (Senokot) and Docusate (Colace)

    2. If there is no bowel movement within 48 hours, add one of the following:

    • Milk of magnesia, one to two (1-2) tablespoons one to two times a day
    • Dulcolax 5 mg tablet, one to two (1-2) tablets
    • Call your doctor/nurse practitioner or nurse

    3. If there is no bowel movement in 72 hours, try one of the following (after talking with your doctor or nurse):

    • Dulcolox 10 mg suppository
    • Magnesium of Citrate, 8 oz
    • Mineral oil, one to two (1-2 tablespoons)
    • Fleet enema (may need to repeat)
    • Miralax powder as prescribed

    A few tips

    • Pain medications can be very constipating. If you take pain medications you will need to talk to your doctor or nurse, and follow the above
    • All of the above are over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications
    • Drinking lots of fluids (eight to 10 glasses a day), eating foods high in fiber, and exercising all help prevent constipation.
    • If frequent or loose stools develop, decrease your laxatives by one-half.
    • If you do not move your bowels despite the above measures, please call your doctor or nurse.
  • Coping with Cancer