Gastrointestinal Complications (Patient) (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Description and Causes
Common factors that may cause constipation in healthy people are eating a low-fiberdiet, postponing visits to the toilet, using laxatives and enemas excessively, not drinking enough fluids, and exercising too little. In persons with cancer, constipation may be a symptom of cancer, a result of a growing tumor, or a result of cancer treatment. Constipation may also be a side effect of medications for cancer or cancer pain and may be a result of other changes in the body (organ failure, decreased ability to move, and depression). Other causes of constipation include dehydration and not eating enough. Cancer, cancer treatment, aging, and declining health can contribute to causing constipation.
More specific causes of constipation include:
Changed Bowel Habits
Immobility and Lack of Exercise
Muscle and Nerve Disorders (nerve damage can lead to loss of muscle tone in the bowel)
Body Metabolism Disorders
Assessment of Constipation
A medical history and physical examination can identify the causes of constipation. The examination may include a digital rectal exam (the doctor inserts a gloved, lubricated finger into the rectum to check for stool impaction) or a test for blood in the stool. If cancer is suspected, a thorough examination of the rectum and colon may be done with a lighted tube inserted through the anus and into the colon. The following questions may be asked:
Treatment of constipation includes prevention (if possible), elimination of possible causes, and limited use of laxatives. Constipation caused by opioid pain medicine may be treated with a drug given by injection. Suggestions for the patient's treatment plan may include the following:
Current Clinical Trials
Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for U.S. supportive and palliative care trials about constipation, impaction, and bowel obstruction that are now accepting participants. The list of trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.
General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.
eMedicineHealth Public Information from the National Cancer Institute
This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http://cancer.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Some material in CancerNet™ is from copyrighted publications of the respective copyright claimants. Users of CancerNet™ are referred to the publication data appearing in the bibliographic citations, as well as to the copyright notices appearing in the original publication, all of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
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